"no, I don't mind."


"yes sir."

"I'll call you when I have it in hand."

"bye."

I hung up the fake call and frowned regretfully at Todd. "I have to go to the office."

"Now?"

"Yeah. Broward needs something for court tomorrow and he wants me to send it to him now. ASAP in fact." I ripped off the page and stuffed it in my purse. I handed the pen and paper to him and leaned forward, kissing him briefly on the check.

"Thanks for the invite, Todd. Sorry I couldn't stay for the movie."

"Want me to come with you?"

God no! "Awww, that's sweet, but no. I don't know how long it will take, or if Broward will want me to do other stuff there."

I leaned down and patted Walker's head, silently thanking him with my eyes for being so damn noisy during our uncomfortable make-out session. The dog lolled his tongue to the side, smiling at me. I left while Todd was still sitting there, pen in hand, trying to process the sudden change. I gave him a bright wave and firmly shut the door behind me, jogging down the front steps and hopping into my car before he could think of something to say.

Holy crap. I’m getting too old for this stuff. I swore at that moment to stay away from men and to become a spinster, collecting cats and eating raw cookie dough till I got old, fat, and happy.

CHAPTER 30

Rule 6: Brad is always in control

Thursday I started running out of things to do, a welcome problem. I only got one email from Broward all day, he gave me his login information and asked me to print and fax some email attachments for him. Five minutes later, with that task complete, I wandered over to Sheila, to see if she had any items I could help with. I was determined to keep busy, and keep my mind off anything related to Brad. Sheila happily handed over a few projects, and I locked myself into my office and busily worked away till the end of the day. Twice my phone rang with Brad’s extension showing; both times I ignored the calls and pushed him out of my mind.

5:45pm. I wrapped up my last email, shut down my computer, and organized the files on my desk. Time to go home. I waved to Sheila and Beverly, and walked through the West Wing's double doors to the elevator lobby. Brad stood in the lobby, his hands in his pocket, the elevator button illuminated. Crap. My steps faltered, but I couldn't turn back without looking like I was running. I gave Brad a stiff nod and stood, a few steps behind him, and waited for the elevator. I prayed for someone else to come out, but luck wasn't on my side, and the elevator opened to just the two of us.

We got in and Brad pressed the G button for the garage level. As soon as the doors closed he turned to me. Before a word could come out, I held my hand up. "I'm not saying anything to you," I said tightly.

"Julia-"

"No, Brad. I mean it."

Brad gripped his fists tightly, then slammed one hand on the wall and punched the red Emergency STOP button with the other fist.

In movies, when the elevator STOP button is pressed, the car comes to a gentle stop and the people have their tryst, or argument, or bank robbery, or whatever it is they stopped the car for. That is not what happened here.

The car shrieked - a painful squeal of metal on metal ten times worse than any nails on a chalkboard and we slammed to an immediate stop - my legs buckled underneath me and I had to grab the arm rails for support. Pressing the STOP button also triggered the emergency sprinklers built into the ceiling, and caused a loud blaring alarm to sound. The overhead light stayed on, but an Emergency light now illuminated, on and off, casting the car into alternating modes of red and white light. Whoever designed this system did not take occupant hysteria into account at any point in the design process.

"WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!" I shrieked at Brad over the sound of the blaring alarm.

"WHY WON’T YOU TALK TO ME?" he demanded, his eyes blazing and hands in fists at his side.

"BECAUSE I DON’T WANT TO TALK TO YOU. WE AGREED TO STAY AWAY FROM EACH OTHER, REMEMBER?”

"WHAT IF I WANT TO RENEGOTIATE THE CONTRACT?"

"THE CONTRACT IS NOT UP FOR RENEGOTIATION!"

The water fell, heavy on our heads - not a gentle mist but buckets of liquid, cold and probably unfiltered. I couldn't hear myself think over the blaring sound of the alarm, and I glared at Brad through the spray of the water. Somewhere inside the car a phone rang.

"IS THIS ABOUT TODD?" he yelled, over the sound of the alarm and phone.

"NO! THIS IS ABOUT YOU, BEING A DICK, AND A SLUT, AND SOMEONE I HAVE NO BUSINESS HANGING OUT WITH!" I yelled back, our faces now inches apart, close enough for me to see the hurt in his eyes. So the monster bleeds.

The phone continued ringing, insistently, and Brad broke the seal of our stare and fumbled on the side of the car, finally finding a door, opening it, and grabbing a phone.

"HELLO,” he yelled, holding one hand over his free ear, trying to hear the person on the other end.

"IT’S DE LUCA."

"NO. NO EMERGENCY. CAN YOU TURN OFF THE FUCKING LIGHTS AND WATER?” At that sentence the alarm died, thought the red lights continued, as well as the unrelenting downpour of water.

"Yeah. And take the car down to the service level. I'm not walking through the damn lobby like this."

He hung up and turned, looking at me through the water, his handsome face turning red and white with the changing lights.

"What's this really about Julia?" He said the words quietly, almost inaudible over the sound of rushing water.

I sank against the wall of the car, the cold water chilling me to the bone. "Broward told me."

He stilled. "Told you what?"

"What do you think! About you, his wife. Six years ago."

"How much did he tell you?"

"I didn't ask for details Brad. I didn't need any. There's no excuse for that."

The emergency lights died and the water began to diminish, until it was just dripping from the overhead spigot. My last sentence hung in the silence. The elevator began to move, lurching at first, then resuming its normal, smooth ride. The car came to a stop and the doors opened to a level I had never seen, full of large machines and pipes. Water gushed out the open doors, and two maintenance workers in blue coveralls stood there, waiting for us. The first guy stepped forward with a smile, until he saw the somber look on both of our faces. I ran a hand through my drenched hair, and accepted his outstretched hand, stepping out of elevator. "Thanks," I said.

I approached the second man, and asked him how to get to the garage level. He pointed to a stairwell, and I banged through the door and headed up the stairs. Brad called out to me, but I didn't stop, trying to keep from getting emotional and just wanting to be dry at home, in my bed. I heard his heavy steps on the concrete stairs behind me, but I didn't stop, just kept moving. Hitting the garage level, I reached for the handle and pulled. The door was stopped by his big hand, pressing it closed. I gritted my teeth and looked up into his face, now above me, his eyes frustrated and his jaw set.

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