His words hit me hard. I don’t need him to tell me there was something special there. I fucking felt it.

I refuse to acknowledge it, though. “Not really. She was just a good fuck.”

Pain pinches at the center of my chest—a sure sign of the guilt I feel for even saying that. She was so much more than a good fuck, which is exactly why I had to cut her loose. She was making me feel way too much, and I am just not ready for that.

The bartender brings our drinks. As I reach for mine, Jerico firmly states, “That’s your last one of the evening. You know we have a two-drink maximum.”

“Already drunk,” I mutter, but then I raise my glass and offer, “Thanks, though.”

“If you don’t mind me saying so,” Jerico starts as he leans an elbow on the bar, “you seem like a man who has a lot weighing on him.”

I give him a sharp look, hating his perceptiveness, but I quickly look away again lest I acknowledge just how right he is.

He’s not deterred. “Not trying to pry into your business. I’m just saying… I know the look of someone who comes in here to lose themselves in pussy or cock or whatever floats your boat. Yet, nothing is interesting you tonight. So why even bother?”

I look around The Silo. It’s the usual kink. A threesome going in one room, a woman getting flogged in another. Two guys sixty-nining in yet another room.

My attention returns to Jerico, and I can’t even be mad at his nosiness. On the contrary, the alcohol seems to have completely killed my desire for misery and privacy. “Today is Father’s Day, and I’m trying to forget my five-year-old daughter is dead. I’ve tried several places to forget about her, and I figured somewhere like this was my best chance. It seems to be working.”

Jerico’s expression softens. “I’m deeply sorry, Benjamin. I didn’t know.”

I shrug. “Few do. It’s not like I talk about it.”

This morning, I had briefly wondered if I should visit Cassidy’s grave. I had thought I should spend Father’s Day with her, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I didn’t want to set precedence for this holiday. Who knows… maybe this will be my precedence? Losing myself in a sex club and alcohol to avoid the pain.

“Did it work?” Jerico takes a sip of his drink, his gaze heavy on me. “Does the stuff in here get your daughter off your mind?”

“A little bit,” I admit. I pick up my drink, then take a healthy slug of the bourbon Jerico bought me. It doesn’t even burn going down anymore.

“Is that why you started coming here? To shut yourself off from everything that happened?”

My laugh is mirthless and flat. “Actually, just the opposite. I’ve done such a good job refusing to think about them while shutting myself off from any reminders that I became numb to everything.”

Jerico jerks in surprise. “Them?”

“My wife died, too. Drunk driver hit our car.”

“Jesus Christ,” Jerico mutters, then takes a large gulp of his own drink. I’m aware of how pathetic it sounds.

But the alcohol and Jerico’s persistent questions have loosened my tongue. “I spent months burying them… the memory of them at least. It was too painful to even think about. But I got so good at it I wasn’t feeling anything. I thought coming here would at least let me feel physical pleasure. At least that was something.”

An expression takes over Jerico’s face, like a lightbulb going off. “Then you met Elena Costieri, and it was all over. No more burying the pain.”

I don’t like the importance he is placing on Elena. It only adds to my guilt over what I did. I’m in denial when I say, “It wasn’t like that at first.”

“But it did turn into something,” Jerico says sagely. His words ring with empathetic truth. I can’t even be annoyed he’s trying to play psychologist with me.

“She opened me up,” I admit grudgingly. “She left me vulnerable.”

Jerico nods, as if he’s heard the sad tale before. But in truth, it’s not that hard to connect the dots about my story. “Let me guess… Father’s Day came along, Elena had opened you up, and the pain hit you extra hard?”

“You don’t know the half of it,” I mutter, swallowing down the rest of my drink and pushing the empty glass toward the edge of the bar. The bartender doesn’t even spare me a glance; he knows I’m cut off. “I was sitting at the hospital on Thursday, and I just happened to overhear a conversation about Father’s Day. I didn’t even know it was coming up. I normally ignore that shit. And yeah… it dredges up all the stuff I had worked so hard to bury.”

“And?” Jerico just stares.

“And what?”

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