“How does Elena play into all of this?” he asks simply.

I frown. “Well, it’s her fault, isn’t it? She’s someone I can’t stay closed off from. I should have known better than to ever get involved with someone like her. But that’s done now.”

“Just dumped her, huh?” The condemnation in Jerico’s tone is clear, meaning he has some affection for her.

“Something like that,” I mutter guiltily.

Jerico straightens, slaps a hand on the bar, and pins me with a hard look. “That was a dick move, Benjamin. I don’t care what your emotional trauma was.”

“Yeah, I know. But it’s for the best. It was never going to go the distance anyway.”

“Guess you’ll never know,” Jerico drawls, and there is something ominous about the way that sounds. As if my last little bit of hope has just slithered away. Even if I hadn’t realized I’d had a kernel of hope left until that very moment.

“I guess not,” I murmur pensively.

“Can I ask you a question?” Jerico inquires politely.

“Shoot,” I reply slowly, my tongue so thick it’s almost hard to get the word out.

“The pain you felt on Thursday… in the hospital when you overheard the conversation about Father’s Day? I assume it hit you pretty hard to have just broken things off with Elena.”

“It’s the worst I’ve felt in a long time.”

“Tell me honestly… do you feel that bad right this moment? I mean, despite the fact you’re drunk as a skunk and alcohol is a downer, but comparing the pain… how does it feel?”

“It’s not as intense,” I admit. “I’ve had a few days to process. What’s your point?”

Jerico leans into me, locking his eyes on mine. “My point is that between Thursday and now, you seem to be handling it. You’re coping. Drinking, but coping. Grief is necessary, but the pain always gets better. You’ve made it through the worst, Benjamin. And that has nothing to do with you cutting Elena out of your life.”

I just blink at him, trying to process what he’s saying through my inebriation.

It’s as if he can see I’m not following, so he simplifies it for my drunk, simpleton mind. “Don’t let something good slip away just because there’s risk.”

I stare, knowing in a world of common sense and rational thinking that he’s right. Any sane and sober person would think so.

Jerico doesn’t expect an answer from me. He pats me on the shoulder, gives me a nod, and walks away.

I let my eyes drift over to the glassed-in room where the threesome is still fucking. I take in the beauty and sensuality of the act. Man on his back, woman riding him, and another man behind her plowing her ass.

Mercifully, I’m not thinking about Cassidy, April, or Elena anymore… and that’s something at least.

CHAPTER 16

Elena

I really do have better things to do with myself on a Monday. The salon is closed, and it’s usually my day to catch up on bookwork, inventory, and any personal errands. That I am instead at Benjamin’s medical practice is most likely a total waste of my day.

I simply can’t help it, though. I’m really concerned about him—also very pissed—but I’m more worried than anything. Now that I know about his horrible history… his wife and daughter dead… I can’t help but be fretful for his welfare.

After talking to Walsh and Jorie, there was no stopping my need for more details. I had to Google the news story of Benjamin’s accident. It seems as if they were driving one evening when a drunk driver who had two prior DWIs crossed the centerline and hit them head-on. His wife, April, had been killed upon impact. Their five-year-old daughter Cassidy had a major brain injury—the irony of which cannot be lost on anyone given what Benjamin does for a living—and was taken off life support a mere twenty-four hours later.

The news articles did not give much detail about how serious Benjamin’s injuries were, but I suspect it was much worse than what happened to his leg.

I don’t know the exact why of it, but it’s obvious the accident and their deaths have everything to do with why he cut me off without a word. And because I know deep down in my gut—really, my heart—that we had a solid connection, I just can’t let this go. I must find out why he did this when he had, and I have to make sure he’s going to be okay. In the brief time we’ve known each other, I have come to care about him. It doesn’t matter that our relationship revolves only around sexual gratification, the level of intimacy we have shared and knowing what I now know about his history has unfortunately caused my heart to become involved.

There is no doubt what I’m doing would be considered stalkerish. I showed up at his place of work this morning, then walked confidently up to the reception desk. His offices are on the fourth floor of a large glass medical building right beside the hospital. The interior is posh with expensive furniture and high-end art. It’s no secret neurosurgeons are at the top of the pay scale when it comes to the medical profession. And yet, nothing about the fact he is wealthy appeals to me.

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