To his credit, Sam’s only reaction is a few rapid blinks of his eyes before he gets to his feet. “No problem, Luc, I’ll get on down there now.”

I clap my hand on his shoulder in appreciation. “Thanks, Sam. I’m sure Marcus will express his thanks soon…very soon.” Sam throws me a disgusted look over his shoulder before telling Cindy goodbye and walking toward the elevator.

When he’s gone, Cindy looks at me and shakes her head as if I’m a misbehaving child. Hell, that’s exactly what I am in this instant and we both know it. “Kevin was supposed to cover for Marcus, wasn’t he?” she asks dryly.

“Yep.” I chuckle before going past her to my office door. “I saw an opportunity and I took it, Cindy. You can’t hold that against me.” Her laughter follows me into my office before I close the door behind me.

I take a seat behind my desk and quickly get lost in emails and phone calls. It’s a relatively quiet morning for a change. Aidan flew out last night to woo a potential partner. Their software would be a perfect fit with ours and I’m counting on him to finalize the deal. I’ve already made the initial technical pitch, but Aidan is the man I send for the socializing aspect of the business. He is the closer for Quinn Software, and he’s damn brilliant at his job. Even with the latest distractions concerning Cassie, I know I can count on him to put his focus where it needs to be until the ink dries on the contract. He will, of course, visit Cassie on the way home and the fucking bastard that I am will hope her improved mental state has stalled and nothing else has changed.

I own the guilt I feel for the part I played in that night eight years ago, and even though I know I need to forgive both Cassie and myself, I don’t know if I ever will. I feel lighter after unburdening myself to Lia, but I’m far from ready to forget. I may be able to move past it somewhat with time, but I’ll never fully be able to grant myself absolution, so it’s very unlikely I can give that to Cassie, either. Without Lia in my life, I fear I would have eventually descended into a pit of bitterness and self-loathing that would have eaten away at my soul until there was nothing left. If the fucking cocaine didn’t kill me first. I had called Aunt Fae’s doctor friend on the ride to work this morning and made an appointment for later in the week with him to discuss a plan for battling my addiction. I won’t let my demons take me away from the woman I adore, no matter how hard the battle to get free of them may be.

As my mind turns to Lia, I think of our upcoming appointment this afternoon. It seems that we have both been hesitant to find out if she is pregnant ahead of her doctor’s appointment. Maybe we’re afraid of the answer. It’s so final—one way or another. Not knowing is easier to deal with. Despite the love between us, past events and horrors plague both Lia and I. She’s an embattled woman with the spirit of a warrior.

My phone buzzes a moment later and Cindy says in a puzzled tone of voice, “Max is here to see you.” When he comes through the door, I understand her confusion. My normally immaculately dressed lawyer is wearing jeans, a T-shirt, and boots. He also looks like he hasn’t shaved yet. Hell, I hate to even ask if he’s showered. I lean back in my chair and wait for an explanation. I think I deserve that much when my employee and friend shows up looking like a poster from America’s Most Wanted.

He literally falls into a chair in front of my desk and drops his face into his hands. “I need the day off.” He finally looks up.

“Obviously,” I reply, not attempting to hide my amusement. “Are we talking the flu here or something more dire?” Going by his appearance, I’d put money on the second. He’s just usually so…neat for lack of a better word.

“It’s that fucking woman,” he snaps. “I swear you and Lia have ruined my life. I used to have some kind of control, but she’s chipping away at that bit by bit. I might as well just go ahead and gift wrap my balls because that’s next.”

I find myself choking back a laugh, remembering I’d had almost the same thought last night. It seems that suddenly my friends and I are afraid of women turning us into pussies. I don’t bother sharing that tidbit with him. He’s too deep in denial right now. I’ve been there, so I know the signs well. Even though I know the answer, I ask the question anyway just to be an asshole. Fuck, sometimes even I get off on that. “So, who are we talking about here? Have you met someone new?”

He shoots me a look that says he knows I’m screwing with him. “When would I possibly have the time or the energy for that? I’ve been too busy babysitting Lia’s crazy friend!”

“What’s she done now?” I sigh. “I trust she stopped just short of actually shooting Jake?” Rose was beginning to give new meaning to the whole “woman scorned” thing. I can’t imagine how her ex-boyfriend ever got brave enough to dip his dick into another woman. Maybe he didn’t know what she was capable of at that point. I certainly hadn’t.

“She called me last night and was upset because Jake had been threatening her.”

I start laughing. I can’t even fathom Rose as the cowering little woman. Of her and Jake, she’s solidly wearing the pants—and carrying the firearms. I’m just surprised that Max actually fell for the damsel-in-distress routine. The man would have his own mother crying for mercy in the courtroom for fuck’s sake. “And she had some proof of this?”

“She got a text message from him while I was there—or from someone at least. I told her that we would go get a restraining order against him this morning.”

Tags: Sydney Landon Lucian & Lia Billionaire Romance