Even James has been forced into obey his betters. The damn playboy.

Parking the Tahoe next to Andrew’s armored Mercedes, I quickly glance around us to make sure everyone that should be is here.

“You know, Simon, it looks to me like every one of Matthew’s men has an expensive, decked out car… Why the Tahoe’s and Escalades?” she asks.

Opening the door, I wait until I walk around the vehicle to open her door before answering.

Taking her hand in mine, I help her down from the seat. “I prefer the sheer weight and power of my vehicles. They are tailored to do exactly as I need. The Escalade is set up for me to run two powerful computer systems in case of an emergency. It also has enough raw weight from the upgraded armor to drive through a couple of brick walls.”

Pointing to the Mercedes, I say, “Besides, that car belongs to Andrew’s wife Amy.”

“Oh! It is beautiful though, isn’t it?”

Shrugging my shoulders, I say, “I suppose, but it’s also like the Escalade in the fact that it’s been modified to be a rolling armored vehicle.”

She looks around at the cars surrounding us, motioning to the silver Lexus. “That one?”

Growling quietly so that only she can hear, I say, “That was supposed to be mine for when I needed a lower profile, but that mongrel Johnathan took it over. Now I have to wait for the newest model to be finished up and sent. Though it does warm my cold heart to know Beth has all but taken it over from him.”

“So you’re telling me all the men are buying their wives big fancy cars?” she asks with a raised eyebrow.

“Yes, I think I am,” I say, shrugging my shoulders as we walk towards the front of the house.

Inside, the men of the inner circle will be gathered around, grieving each in their own way. The funeral today was for Peter’s relatives. Tonight will be a time for us, his family, to grieve.

“When are you going to buy me a new fancy car?” she asks with a chuckle to her voice.

“If I ever were to let you out of my sight, you would get one. But as it is… there’s no need.”

“Simon, if you are going to solve the issues with Asad, like you’ve said you will, then there will be a time when I’ll need to be able to go out on my own.”

I turn to look at her and grin. “Maybe if you behave I’ll buy you something to go with your bracelet.”

“Asshole!” she hisses at me right as the front door sweeps open.

Lily stands there, a mixture of confusion and slight annoyance on her face as she looks at Meredith.

“Ah, Simon, it’s so good to see you. Even if it’s for such a horrendous reason. Peter…” she says, her voice fading off as she steps to the side and motions for me to enter.

With not quite as much cheer in her voice, she adds, “Meredith, thank you for coming too.”

Nodding my head at Lily, I say, “Thank you for the welcome. Has Evelyn been informed of the… news?”

Lily’s expression saddens as she looks off towards the inner house. “Yes. She’s handling it as well as can be expected… but I fear for her. She forms attachments so easily to Matthew’s men.”

“She’ll be okay. I’ve been told children are resilient,” I say.

Meredith pushes her elbow into my side sharply. “What Simon meant to say was, if she needs anything, or you, please let us know.”

Looking down to Meredith, I’m tempted to check her forehead for a fever.

“Thank you, Meredith,” Lily says with a warming smile. “Let’s join the rest of the group. I’m sure they are wondering where you have been Simon.”

Fuck.

This is the last thing I need the men to be wondering about. My personal life is just that. Personal. They have no need to know what I do in my personal time. I have no doubt that if they did, there would be no end to their litany of jokes and off-beat humor. They would most likely expect me to join in their womanly commiserations.

Good gods, I would rather give myself a fucking lobotomy.

As we head into the house, I hear loud laughter from Andrew and then Johnathan’s loud braying as well. Wonderful, the gang’s all here.

As we walk into the large living room, I feel my phone buzzing in my pocket.

Stopping in the doorway, I release Meredith’s hand as I pull it out and push connect. This should be interesting.

“Chief Mar—” I start to say before I am rudely cut off.

“You son of a bitch!” he screams into my ear.

Meredith gives me a wide-eyed look before she smirks. She has learned I seem to have this effect on people.

Smiling to myself, I ignore the ranting of the Fire Chief as I watch her walk into the room behind Lily. Meredith, to me, has the body of a lithesome ballerina. Especially when she does her hair up in a high tight bun. It accentuates her long, slender neck, her tan skin showing a radiant glow.

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