I thought of my missing iPad, and the reason I use cameras on my open houses. Was this any different? I tried to convince myself that it wasn’t.

Brad met my eyes. “Trust me when I say that it’s better to be safe rather than worry about impressions. Besides, it won’t hurt the sales potential. People love a good story, and buying a ‘mobster’s’ house is intriguing. This will play into that image and give them something to brag about during their housewarming party.”

He had a good point. I’d be disappointed if I visited Steven Spielberg’s house and didn’t see any movie memorabilia. Maybe I should play up the angle. If we did a full security sweep, maybe even a pat-down for weapons… I’d been worried that the Magiano connection would scare off buyers, but maybe it would have the opposite effect.

“We understand it’s more work on your part, which is why we added a listing bonus.” Julia leaned forward and flipped the page, running a pale pink fingernail down the paper and stopping beside the final paragraph.

I scanned it quickly. A listing bonus of twenty-five thousand dollars. Payable directly to the primary listing agent at closing.

“I can put that in a separate addendum to the listing and purchase contract,” Brad said quietly. “Something you can keep private. We’ll pay you that directly, outside of the title company’s and brokerage’s books.”

I understood exactly what they were offering. Twenty-five thousand dollars that wouldn’t be taxable. Twenty-five thousand dollars that Blanton & Rutledge or Tim wouldn’t get a piece of. It would have to be in a separate and very confidential addendum.

I turned the page as if it was no big deal and reviewed the next, my hands beginning to sweat. I moved one into my lap and wiped it on my pants.

“We’ll leave you alone to review the rest and confirm the legalities mirror your broker’s listing form. Please do not take photos of any pages or take anything with you.” Brad De Luca stood and Julia followed suit, flashing me a reassuring smile before she headed for the office’s double doors.

And then I was alone. Me, my sweaty palms, and twenty-two more pages to review. I pulled myself closer to the mammoth desk and forced myself to focus. It was a struggle, the excitement at the bonus competing with the realization I hadn’t really earned the listing at all. It seemed they’d decided, before I even walked in the door, to list the home with me—the evidence of that right here, in the pre-completed listing agreement with my name across the top. Was it just from Fred Mount’s recommendation, or had they already vetted me? And honestly, did it matter? Why was I questioning it?

I’d been hesitant to take the listing before, Easton’s concerns and opinion lingering in the recesses of my mind—but the listing bonus had sealed the deal.

I could handle some risk. I had to. I needed the reward far too badly.

12

I found the funeral party invitation and studied the start time, then glanced at the clock, doing the math for traffic. Setting down the invitation, I unzipped my makeup bag and continued my recap of the listing appointment.

Beside me, Easton squirted a dollop of shaving cream into his palm and raised his brows when I got to the bonus. “That’s a pleasant surprise. A twenty-five thousand dollar bonus?”

“Yep. With the commission, it’ll be almost fifty grand. Plus, the deposit you just got, plus maybe more from the LA trip…” I put a fresh layer of concealer underneath my eyes. “I feel really good about everything.” Finally.

“And he didn’t hit on you at all?” A question that had already been asked and answered, but I let it slide.

“I told you. His wife is stunning. And they’re super cute together. They even throw food at each other. Just like us.” I gave him a sweet smile.

“Yeah, that’s not a good thing.”

“It often turns into a good thing.”

“Unless it’s something that I was enjoying eating. Like those—”

“AHH—I won’t ever throw brownies at you again.” I stuck the cap on my concealer. “I’m SORRY. It was three years ago. You’ve got to move on.”

He spread the cream across his jaw. “I’m still not happy about this listing, Elle.”

“I know, but you have to trust me. There’s going to be security there and any potential buyers are going to be vetted through them first. This is the safest open house I will ever do.”

He didn’t say anything, but I could feel the grumble in his aura as he tapped his razor on the edge of the sink.

Leaning closer to the mirror, I swept the mascara wand over my top lashes and aimed for a subject change. “My mom called this afternoon. She’s already wanting to claim us for Christmas.”

He groaned. “I already told my mom we’d do dinner with her.”

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