“I’m so sorry, Mia,” Mark finally says.

I sigh, resting my head against his chest. “I appreciate that, but you’re going to make me cry again.”

He pulls back, still with his arms around me, and looks down at me. “What the fuck happened?”

“I’m pretty sure we shouldn’t talk about it,” I tell him.

“It’s been talked about. The last time Mateo went postal was when he killed his wife. When it happens, people take notice.”

“Well, it sounds like you already know what happened,” I point out, pulling out of his embrace and taking a step back. “I really don’t want to talk about it.”

“Are you okay?” he asks, obviously not satisfied by my lack of real response. “Is he hurting you?”

“No,” I assure him, shaking my head. “I mean, emotionally, by killing Vince, but not… I’m fine. I can handle Mateo.”

He snorts. “I have my doubts about that.”

“Well, it doesn’t matter anyway, does it?”

Mark shakes his head, but he looks decidedly irritated now. “He has too much power. No one should have this much power.”

“Mark,” I say, giving him a look of warning. As far as I know, there’s still only the one camera in the corner over here, but I wouldn’t put it past Mateo to put some hidden ones in after the Mark incident, just to be safe.

He understands this. “Why don’t we go somewhere after you get off work to talk? We’ll get dinner or coffee or something.”

“I can’t,” I tell him, shaking my head. “You know I can’t.”

“You don’t have to tell him,” he says, quietly.

“Mark.” I widen my eyes at him pointedly.

“God, he is a pain in the ass,” he mutters.

My eyebrows lift and fall real fast, the most agreement I can really give him, since I don’t know how well monitored I am. Not live—he doesn’t watch these cameras live, I know that much, but he could always go over them later. He hasn’t liked Mark since he found out he was a spy in his bakery anyway, so it’s not a good idea to give him any additional reasons.

“It’s just dinner with a friend,” he says, affecting a harmless smile. “No biggie.”

“I have to be home for dinner.”

“Then it’s coffee with a friend. Popcorn. Doughnuts. I don’t care what we do. Let’s go check out the bean in Millennium Park, people seem to dig that.”

“I’d have to ask him,” I say.

“You need his permission? That’s fucked up. I thought Vince was the crazy one.”

I wince.

So does he. “Shit, I forgot. I’m sorry.”

“We’re all crazy here, Mark,” I tell him, sighing and moving around him to get back around to my side of the counter. “What kind of sweets are you in the mood for today?”

Ignoring my question, he tells me, “You need a friend.”

“We are friends; I just can’t hang out with you right now. And I have a friend—I have Meg.”

His eyes widen, clearly stunned. “Still?”

I nod, so ensconced in our way of life somehow that I don’t immediately understand why I wouldn’t.

“Damn,” he says, shaking his head. “Really?”

“Of course. Meg and I are best friends, you know that.”

“Unbelievable,” he mutters, still looking vaguely stunned. “I mean, it’s not uncommon for a boss to have a wife and a girlfriend, but for them to remain best friends and get fucking mani-pedis together, that’s fucking unprecedented. This asshole has it made in the shade, doesn’t he?”

I crack a smile. “It isn’t like that. I’m not a mistress. We’re… I don’t know what we are right now. I really, really don’t want to talk about Mateo though.”

“First time for everything, huh?” he remarks.

“Okay,” I say, cutting him a look of censure.

Ducking his head, he apologizes for the jab and indicates the cupcake he’ll take from the display today. Before he leaves he tries once more to convince me to go somewhere with him later, but I tell him no again. I do sort of want to though, so I debate over whether or not I could ask Mateo. Maybe next week when he comes, I could go hang out with Mark.

Chapter Twenty Two

Mia

I’m invited to the study tonight for drinks, but I still can’t go into Mateo’s study without bursting into tears, so I decline and hang out in the kitchen with Maria instead.

I’ve noticed a major lack of Cherie since I moved back to the mansion, so I decide to ask Maria about it.

“Hey Maria, how come Cherie doesn’t help out on Sundays anymore?”

Maria shakes her head, her face pinched with displeasure—this isn’t uncommon though, her face usually looks like that, but now it’s more pronounced. “Cherie doesn’t help with anything anymore. She quit after…” Maria trails off, sliding her eyes toward me, and I realize she doesn’t want to mention Vince in front of me and trigger the waterworks.

“Oh,” I murmur, arranging the breadsticks in the basket. “I didn’t realize… I mean, I was never really sure how that worked. She’s allowed to just quit?”

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