“Don’t flatter yourself. I enjoy guiding you; that’s true. However, I have a busy schedule, and I don’t need this needless aggravation either.”

“You’re the source of it,” Brent muttered under his breath and rolled his eyes. His father brought out his inner fifteen-year-old and always would.


“Anyway, I wanted to talk about this year’s fundraiser for the Sanderson Pharmaceutical and Antibiotic Advances Research Foundation. Have you given it any thought at all?”

Brent sighed and hung his head. He had to admit that he hadn’t – with all the trauma coming Cara’s way as well as securing location shoots for the studio’s newest “baby”. A sharp pain lanced through his chest at the thought. LeeAnne had been his world. Since when did the fundraiser that helped fund the foundation he’d started after her death become just a chore to get to?

“Son?”

“I’m sorry. I haven’t. Cara’s had such a hard time at school and—”

“If you let me take care of it, I’ll make Senator Callahan’s daughter and the senator both very sorry she ever started messing with a Sanderson.”

“No. No threats.” Yet. “I’ve got a meeting soon with him and the administration. I don’t want random blackmail or underhanded brake cutting to happen to them.”

“Oh, Son, I’d never have someone’s brakes cut. That’s sloppy.”

Brent swallowed hard. He was pretty sure those words weren’t a joke. “Anyway, what were you thinking for the fundraiser? We could do an auction again. That went well three years ago.”

“No and no. I’ve already spent three months planning a masquerade ball. I’ve heard they’ve come back in style for the rich and bored due to some popular book series or some nonsense like that, but we can roll with that momentum. The invitations will go out next week, and we’ve booked the Westin ballroom already.”

“Then why are we having this conversation? And drawing precious time away from my darling little studio?”

His father smiled, a look that would make shark’s nervous. “You mean, besides my desire to spend some quality father-son time together?”

“Yes, because it always goes so well for us.”

“I think that you need to seriously try dating again.”

“You do know that Nadia, my last blind date, is now a happily married lesbian, right?” As embarrassing as it had been for Brent, it felt good to throw that back in the old man’s face.

“True. I seem to have a radar for the wrong type of woman to suit you.”

“Understatement.”

“But,” Donald said, standing and starting to pace, “Cara means the world to me, and she’s growing up without a mother. My son should have a woman of standing to match his own. You will bring a date to the first annual masquerade ball in a few months, and she will be part of the cream of San Diego society. That’s a requirement, or you won’t be allowed through the door.”

“You’re going to call security on me?”

His father paused and stroked the goatee on his chin slowly. Thoughtfully. Never a good sign. “I’ll have security bar you from the door, yes. You need to find a suitable wife. I’ve been too patient—”

“I’d hardly say that.”

“For me, I’ve held off because Cara was younger and needed so much more attention and because you’ve fought me so hard. But this ends. She needs a mother at home now that she’ll be a teenager, and she needs someone who can give her the help we can’t when girls like that Callahan bitch torment her.”

Brent wanted to point out that Jessica was doing just fine in that department, but he bit his tongue. That would just send his father off asking even more uncomfortable questions than Carl’s. Hell, the old bastard had practically rubbed Jess’s face in it the minute she’d met him. The last thing Brent wanted was that all-knowing smirk and wretched double entendres from his father’s lips. No, he couldn’t admit that Jessica was already doing just fine as a mother figure for Cara because, the truth was, Jessica was just the sitter. This was a fling, but it could never go anywhere or become a match.

No matter how much he wished things could be different.

After all, his disastrous fight with Carl was just a warm-up for the cataclysm that awaited him if Allen ever found out. His close friend was a good man, but if Allen did learn about the affair, then Brent’s body would be buried somewhere out in the desert with nothing but an old, bleached cow skull as a marker.

Just as any father would do.

He’d do worse if Cara were in the same situation, so he’d harbor no ill will to Allen if this should ever come to light.

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