Page 8 of Black Lies

I smiled. “Pick me up at seven.”

Jillian must have had a direct line to this man’s brain. She called within three hours. The number unfamiliar, I answered it while folding laundry, whites laid out across my sofa like flags of surrender.

“I didn’t expect you to be a woman who would renege on a deal.” No polite words of greeting, no introduction before diving into the meat of the issue. I recognized her voice instantly, my smile widening as I got a month’s worth of pleasure in the sound of the irritation in her voice.

“All’s fair in love and war, Jillian. We have a year before BSX’s next donation to HYA. That should give us both enough time to sort this matter out.”

“I don’t expect to remember your name in a year.”

I clicked my tongue at her. “Word of advice, Jillian? Don’t push back. It’ll only cause me to pursue him more.”

“Word of advice, sweetie?” She dunked the last word in poison, drawing it out in a manner that made my brow arch with admiration. “Realize when someone is trying to do you a favor.”

I didn’t have a witty comeback for that one. Didn’t really understand it enough to respond. I swallowed, folded the white tank top over twice in my hands and added it to the pile. “Don’t worry about Brant. I won’t hurt him.”

“That isn’t really what concerns me.” She hesitated; I could hear the catch in her breath before she spoke again. “Call me when you find out what does.”

I didn’t talk to her again for nine months. I called her the night I discovered his secret.

Chapter 7

Wealthy men were a breed I knew well; a wealthy man raised me, my impressions of him stolen during brief moments of notability during my first eighteen years. I had dated the young versions, ones who had been born into the world of trust funds, Harvard legacies, and country clubs. Their sense of entitlement had been seconded only by their undeserved egos. Then, I graduated college and moved into the world of men, older versions who reminded me too much of my father, men who took rather than asked, and who expected subservience from anyone with br**sts.

Wealthy men had their benefits: the limos, vacation homes, private jets, and exorbitant gifts. They also had their shortfalls: arrogance, unfaithfulness, an impossible schedule, and, more often than not, an opinion of women that left much to be desired. But hey—that was the rare thing I’d had in common with most of my dates, a mutual lack of respect. And probably the reason why I’d never had a relationship bloom to fruition.

Brant was completely different than every other wealthy man I’d ever met. He listened when I spoke. Looked into my eyes and not at my br**sts. Asked my opinions, valued my intellect. He approached our new relationship in the cautious way that a cat approached food, pushing delicately before gaining footing, his steps as new and explorative as my own. We danced around each other, our moves becoming stronger, more sure-footed with each passing day. Together, we created and explored our roles; sex the only area of our life where no practice was needed.

The man… was an animal. I sipped my coffee and shifted in my seat, the sore ache of my body reminding me of a few nights before, his skillful manipulation of my body that had brought me to orgasm four, five… then six times. I twisted slightly, watching Brant as he stepped into the coffee shop, his eyes finding me as he walked over, brushing a kiss against my lips.

“Been waiting long?”

“Five minutes. Here.” I pushed across his coffee. “Straight black, you unexciting man.”

He settled into the seat, picking it up with a dignified scowl. “It’s manly. Puts hair on my chest.”

I laughed into my cup. “I don’t want hair on your chest. I prefer it as is, perfectly manicured by your team of beauticians.”

That earned me a real scowl. “I don’t have beauticians. They’re…” My eloquent man seemed suddenly at a loss for words. I laughed, pushing gently on his wrist until his coffee was out of reach, then leaned across the table and stole another kiss. He grabbed the back of my neck, pulled my mouth harder to his, asserted his masculinity in a rough moment of passion. I pulled off, blushing as I sat back down, a passing woman glaring at me as if we’ve just screwed on the coffee shop’s floor.

“I’m sorry about yesterday.” The joviality was gone from Brant’s voice.

I shrugged. “It’s not a big deal. I shopped. Ran some errands while downtown.”

“I’ve been fighting a deadline on this wireframe overhaul… sometimes I get in a zone working and lose track of time.”

“It’s fine. I was just worried. I’m not mad—just hated bothering Jillian about it.” Hated bothering Jillian was a mild way of putting it. Brant and I’d set dinner plans: 6 PM at Alexander’s. I’d waited at our table for a half hour before leaving, my calls to Brant going unanswered. I had hesitated to text Jillian, my fingers finally moving across the screen purely out of concern—in case something had happened, in case he was missing. I half-expected a snarky response, something that referenced how unimportant I must be to him. But she had responded quickly and professionally.

HE’S HERE AT THE OFFICE. WILL PROBABLY WORK LATE. NO DOUBT LOST TRACK OF TIME. I’M SORRY.

The fact that she had been civil in her response only irritated me more, tipped the scales a bit in her favor, setting precedence for an act of similar civility on my part. I broke off a piece of muffin.

“Let me make it up to you.”

I watched him while chewing, blueberries mixing with sugar and flour to make a delicious combination in my mouth. “Go ahead,” I mumbled.

“Today, I’ll blow off work. Be all yours.”

I swallowed the bite. “But you’re under deadline. You’ve been working for three weeks to make—”

“I don’t care.” He reached over the table and gripped my hand. “You are more important, and I have set aside a full day of groveling to make up for last night.”

I raised an eyebrow. “A full day? That’s a hefty commitment, Mr. Sharp.”

He met my eyes. “One I’m ready to make.”

I leaned over, lowered my voice. “And what do you have planned in this day full of groveling?”

He tugged my hand up to his lips. “I thought I’d start by us dropping by my condo. I have some ideas of ways to make it up to you.”

“Sexy ways?” I whispered playfully.

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