“Love you, too,” I said, pulling the door closed and digging for my keys. Weird.

♥♥♥

Brad relaxed against the leather couch, listening as Julia’s SUV started up, a throaty purr that rumbled past the den on its way out. Wherever she was going, it wasn’t to meet the girls, and it probably wasn’t Olives. But, when he stared into her eyes, those brown depths that held his heart, he was reminded of who she was, and she was trustworthy. She had never given him any reason not to trust her. And if she needed to lie to him, there was a reason. He’d just have to wait to find out what that was.

Chapter 40

Olives was definitely not my kind of place. Any bar that had a valet was too high-brow for me. I left my car with an acne-covered kid and headed in, gripping my purse and looking for Beverly. It was easy to find her, her shot of red hair sticking out like a flag. I shot a quick smile to the hostess and bee-lined for her, moving through a throng of suits, silks, and perfume until I finally reached her table. She beamed when she saw me, standing and giving me a hug.

“Julia! So glad you made it. Let’s move to the back, it’s quieter back there.” She grabbed my elbow and we hustled, moving to a rear room where the air was lighter and the volume half as loud. Fanning herself, she slid into a small booth and gestured for me to take the opposite seat.

“This is better,” I said, grinning at her across the table.

“I know; it’s pure madness out there. Everyone packs in like sardines until nine, and then there’s not a soul in this place. It makes no sense. I would have started back here, but didn’t want you to get lost in that crowd. A young thing like you, those men wouldn’t have let you get too far.” She winked at me and caught the eye of a server, who stopped by and took our drink order.

“So. Brad’s birthday. What kind of girl are you thinking about?”

Well, that was easy. So much for awkward skirting of the issue. It was one of the reasons I had called Beverly. Frank conversation was certainly appreciated. “I’m not really sure. Can you tell me more about The Montley House?”

She leaned forward, her gorgeous face highlighted to perfection with flawless makeup and diamond drop earrings, her blue eyes burning with mischief. “Montley is the underground red-light district for this city, if a red-light district dealt in thousand dollar bills and professional security. They only have seven girls, and they only cater to clients with a personal invite. I’ll be your invite. I called Riley and told her who you were and what you were looking for. She’ll walk you through the girls they have. Are you wanting more of a submissive or aggressive girl?”

I blew out a breath, considering the choices. “Probably submissive. I don’t want a girl who acts beaten; I just don’t want one trying to run the show. Brad will want to do that.” A thought occurred to me and I frowned. “Every other experience we’ve had, the other person has been a willing participant. I don’t want to force or pressure a girl into this.”

Beverly laughed and leaned forward, flashing a playful smile. “Julia, these women are not at Montley because of financial need. They make more in one night than most women make in a year. They are there because they love sex. Not to mention—can you imagine having to force any woman to have sex with Brad? Good lord, Julia. When I first hired him as an attorney, sex was the last thing on my mind. I hired him because I was told he was lethal in the courtroom. But any woman who spends five minutes in that man’s presence wants his cock. That’s just the way it is. Whomever you pick tonight ... trust me, they’re going to enjoy every minute of the experience.”

She sat back, smiling at the waiter as he set down our drinks, twin martini glasses of sexual confidence.

♥♥♥

I stopped at the second drink, the room a little fuzzy and Beverly getting more beautiful by the second. She knew everything and everyone, and spoke about our lifestyle like it was Wisteria-Lane-normal. It was refreshing, to be able to gasp about the awkwardness of a threesome gone wrong, or giggle when she told me of a sixteen year old kid who somehow snuck into one of her parties.

“I’m telling you, Julia, he stood there for one minute with his mouth hanging open, frozen in his tracks, and then he turned white as a sheet and took off! We probably ruined that boy for life.”

“What happened to that girl, the Russian who was there the night of the Masked Innocence party?

“Who, Kate?” She closed her eyes briefly. “When I think about what almost happened in our house, I get sick. That creep who brought her ... the whole point of me agonizing over a guest list is to make sure people like that don’t end up at our parties. My husband understands that now. Kate lived with us for a few months until we got her citizenship sorted out. Now she works in Customer Service for one of our companies. She’s doing well, looks marvelous. Not as pale as she was that night.”

Brad walked her around to the far side of the bed, laying her back onto it, her bare skin creamy white against the blood red duvet. He ran his hand down the center of her body, her skin quivering from his touch, and she gasped as his fingers reached the place where her legs met. My gaze felt physically glued to the scene, and I blinked, the intensity of my stare drying out my eyes.

I blushed, hoping the dark bar hid my tell, pushing my memories back. I had handled that experience well, jealousy not a problem, arousal overriding it in one, easy sweep. Would Friday be any different? Kate had been a fumbling, inexperienced partner. What if this hired vixen blew my sexual attempts away? Reminded Brad of all of the sex and women he was missing out on? But my decision was made. Even if it all led to that, if she was the catalyst to that epiphany, I wanted to know that now; I wanted this breakdown to happen before the wedding, before the joining of our lives was complete. Brad had voiced it, in simple enough terms, when we had discussed a prenup. We are not getting divorced. Ever.

I didn’t know about a divorce, didn’t know any legal contract in which the word ‘ever’ could really be applied. But it didn’t matter what was on paper, or my finger, or filed with the courts. Whether or not our marriage lasted, I would always and forever, madly deeply love the man. My heart was being sewn together with his, each day and night that passed adding threads to the stitch. And our wedding, our exchange of vows, would be the knot tying the whole package together. At that point, it would be too late; my heart would forever be his. No matter how long the marriage lasted.

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