“Maybe they do,” Sam admits, “but that’s all they have in common. Cassie was always different. I’ve never seen someone’s mood alter as fast as hers could, and she thrived on causing conflict between you and Aidan. Cassie wasn’t happy unless someone around her was unhappy, which was usually Aidan.”
I’m completely surprised by his words. I mean, I knew Aidan was pissed off a lot of the time because he loved Cassie and wanted her to return his feelings. We were all friends, though, and I never noticed her trying to start trouble between us. On the contrary, most of her attention seemed to be centered on controlling me through a mixture of threats, blackmail, and whatever mind game she could dream up that day. “I think you’re mistaken about that,” I try to tell Sam. “Cassie loved the attention we both gave her too much to want to push Aidan away.”
Sam gives me a sad smile before saying, “She didn’t want Aidan to leave her, and she wanted him to turn against you. She wanted to be the sole focus of you both, and that happened more when you were at odds with your friend. That way you both turned to her, and she was number one within your group.” When I start to protest, he adds, “It’s always easier for someone on the outside to see things that people close to the situation miss. I spent even more time around you back then than I do now. I knew that something would happen between you all eventually. I just…couldn’t have guessed what she would do. I’m sorry, Luc; maybe we should have talked about this years ago.”
I mull over his words, knowing he’s right. Cassie was constantly saying negative things about Aidan to me back then, and if what Sam says is true, then she was probably doing the same to him. Our friendship was severely strained in high school and college, and our worst arguments usually occurred when one of us had spent time alone with Cassie. I always put it down to competitive jealousy, but maybe that was not the case. It was so long ago that I’m not sure it even matters anymore other than to add a new element to what is already a tragic story between friends. I put my hand on Sam’s arm. “There is nothing you could have said back then that would have mattered.” Giving him a tired grin, I add, “We knew it all, remember?” If I’d have seen Cassie for who she really was that first day we met, I’d have fucking run and never looked back.
Sam laughs softly, nodding his head. “You certainly did. Now, why don’t you let me be the know-it-all tonight and tell you to crawl out of that bottle of bourbon while you can still walk and go home. Things are different for you now, Luc. If Lia is pregnant, that will be different, as well. Your past only defines you if you let it.”
I reluctantly push my glass aside, knowing he’s right. I can’t keep making Lia pay for Cassie’s sins; she has already paid far too much in her life for other people’s mistakes. I signal for the bill from my still-overly-friendly bartender and turn back to Sam. “Thanks for the talk and for wasting your evening in a bar with me.”
“It’s fine. Cindy’s doing something with her church group tonight, so I had nothing but time on my hands. I might have possibly been doing a final drive-by of your apartment when Lia called, so I was in the area.”
I knew Sam was keeping an eye out for Lia so that doesn’t surprise me, but his casual referral to Cindy does. Of course, I know there was something going on between them; I’m not blind. However, neither has ever come out and admitted it as he just has. “So, you and Cindy, huh…?”
He doesn’t look the slightest bit uncomfortable as he says easily, “Of course. Don’t even try to act surprised; it’s not as if it’s exactly a secret. Cindy just didn’t want to advertise the fact at the office. Personally, I couldn’t care less. Life’s too short to spend time pretending. I’d marry that woman tomorrow if she’d only say yes.”
Now I’m floored. I didn’t know things were quite that serious between them. I’m not sure I’m ready for a world in which I might walk in on Sam and Cindy getting hot and heavy. Cindy thrives on being professional, even more so than is warranted most of the time, so surely she would never subject me to that. “I’m happy for you,” I say honestly. “Cindy is a hell of a woman, and I know I don’t have to threaten you to treat her right.”
Before he can answer, the bartender arrives with my check. “Here ya go, sugar.” She leans closer to me, rubbing a tit against my hand. I see Sam smirking from the corner of my eye. He’s enjoying this far too much. Most of the women he’s seen throw themselves at me over the years are horny socialites; the eager bartender is something a bit new. “I get off at midnight. Why don’t I meet you somewhere?”
I sign the check as quickly as I can, leaving her a hefty tip. Hell, I’d double it just to get her to leave me alone. “Er…I don’t think so.” When she still doesn’t look discouraged I throw out, “I’ve got a girlfriend.”
She leans closer, running a hand over my chest. “Doesn’t matter to me, sugar. I have a boyfriend, too. We have an open relationship, so it’s all good. If your girlfriend looks anything like you do, then bring her along. I’m not shy, and I have no problem sharing.” I push abruptly back from the bar, causing her hand to fall away. Holy fuck, she’s staring at my crotch now as if trying to imagine the size of my cock. Yeah, baby, keep looking because I have no interest whatsoever in what you’ve got to offer.
I grab Sam’s arm and usher him toward the door, weaving slightly on my feet. The alcohol I’ve consumed is hitting me hard, but I’m ready to get the hell out of here. “Fuck,” I roar as we make it to the sidewalk. “That bitch was crazy!”
“Oh, come on,” Sam laughs, looking like the whole incident was hilarious. “I seem to recall you and Aidan having some interesting…gatherings over the years. That girl was probably tame compared to what you two have done.”
I find myself doing something that happens rarely: feeling embarrassed. Sam has been my driver forever, so of course he’s picked me up on some of my drunken evenings. I’ve been far from a monk over the years and one-night stands were always my preferred way to fuck. Aidan and I had on occasion shared a woman…or several. It’s not something I did on a regular basis, but it happened; more so in the immediate years after Cassie than in the last several. I finally settled more into exclusive fucking such as with Laurie. One woman for a few months at a time. As I gained money and power, it became more beneficial to have a woman by my side at social gatherings. It kept the Moniques of the world at bay and provided the added benefit of the illusion of stability to those in the business world. Although a lot of them fuck around, they still tend to look down on those who present themselves as nothing but playboys.