“I have to go outside. Billy’s coming to pick me up.”
Won’t this be a treat? I get to meet a walking, talking asshole. It’ll be like Freak Night at the carnival.
While we wait outside on the sidewalk, Kate turns to me. “What are we going to say to your father?”
And there’s the question I’ve avoided asking myself all night. The old man’s a stand-up guy—chivalrous. Traditional. I’d like to think he’d be proud of my defending Kate’s honor. But he’s also a businessman. And the truth is, I could have defended Kate and still signed Anderson. It’s what I should have done. It’s what I would have done had it been anyone but her on the negotiating table.
“I’ll handle my father.”
“What? No. No, we’re a team, remember? We both lost this client.”
“I’m the one who went off on the guy.”
“And I’m the one who didn’t stop you. Now, I appreciate what you did for me, Drew, really. You were pretty magnificent, actually.”
Maybe it’s just the vodka, but her words make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
“But I don’t need a white knight,” she goes on. “I’m a big girl, and I can certainly handle whatever your father may dish out. We’ll talk to him together on Monday morning. Agreed?”
This clinches it: Kate Brooks is one incredible woman.
It’s then that a black Thunderbird roars down the street and stops in front of us. Yes—I said Thunderbird. Can you say Totally Eighties Weekend? A guy with an average build and light brown hair gets out of it.
Is it just me, or does he look like a douchebag to you too? The old-fashioned kind. Your grandma’s vinegar-and-water type of douche.
With a frown, he zeros in on Kate before looking me over. And then he looks even more pissed. Maybe dumbass isn’t as stupid as I thought; he recognizes competition when he sees it.
He comes around and opens the passenger door for Kate. She sighs and gives me a tight smile. Then she takes two steps toward the car and trips on a crack in the sidewalk. I move to catch her, but Needle Dick is closer and beats me to it. He holds her at arm’s length, the anger on his face turning to disgust.
“Are you fucking wasted?”
I don’t really appreciate his tone. Someone needs to teach him some fucking manners.
“Don’t start, Billy. I’ve had a bad night,” Kate tells him.
“A bad night? Really? As in having the biggest gig of your life and your girlfriend not showing up? Was it that bad, Kate?”
Gig? Did he really just say gig? She actually sleeps with this moron? You have got to be kidding me.
She pulls out of his grasp. “You know what…” She starts off strong—and then deflates. “Just…let’s go home.” She gets in the car and Bitch Boy slams it closed behind her. He glares at me as he walks around to the driver’s side.
Kate rolls down the window. “Goodnight, Drew. And thanks…for everything.”
I give her a smile despite my growing desire to smash her fiancé’s face in. “Any time.”
And the Thunderbird roars away. Leaving me, for the second night in a row, aching for Kate Brooks. I rub my hand down my face as a voice comes from behind me.
“Hey, cutie. I just got off. Want to get off with me?”
It’s Shot Girl. She’s decent-looking—nothing to write home about—but she’s there. And after seeing Kate take off with the spineless weasel she’s marrying, I refuse to spend the rest of the evening alone.
“Sure, baby. I’ll get us a cab.”
It’s a lousy lay. Some advice: Being as still and silent as a corpse when a guy is fucking you will never be remembered as a stellar sexual experience.
The other reason it sucks is because I can’t get Kate out of my head. I keep comparing Shot Girl to her, and the former, of course, comes up disappointingly short.
You think I’m a sleazeball for saying that? Come on—are you going to tell me you never imagined that it was Brad Pitt sticking it to you instead of your beer-bellied husband? That’s what I thought.
Still think I’m a scumbag? Then you’re in luck. I’ll be getting just what you think I deserve very soon.
MY FATHER WAS NOT PLEASED with how I handled the Anderson situation. I’d been rash, unprofessional, blah, blah, blah. And because of my seniority, he held me more accountable for losing the client than Kate.
But the fact that I was on the shit list at the office for a while didn’t hit me as hard you’d think. Mostly because I have no regrets over how I’d reacted. If I had it to do all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing. So, maybe my father was disappointed in me, but to tell you the truth, by the time he got done reaming me out, I was pretty fucking disappointed in him too.
Also, in the four weeks following that disastrous meeting, things between Kate and I have continued to evolve. We still trade punches at work, but they’re more jabs to the chest, meant to sting, rather than right hooks to the jaw, designed to knock each other on our respective asses. We share ideas, help each other out. My father was right about that, at least. Kate and I complement each other, balance each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
Somewhere along the line, she’s become more to me than just a set of legs I want to crawl between. More than a pair of pants I desperately want to get down.
Now she’s Kate—a friend. A friend who causes my dick to stand at attention every time she walks into the room, but that’s my cross to bear, I guess. Because as much as I still want her, and as sure as I am a part of her wants me, Kate is just not the cheating kind.
At least not the kind who could live with herself afterward.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: But what happened? How did a self-assured, handsome, wickedly charming young man like myself become the flu-infected, sloppy shut-in you first met?
We’re getting there—trust me.
To show you the whole picture, there are a few more players you need to meet in the shit-pit soap opera that is now my life. You’ve seen Dirtbag Warren. He’ll be back later, unfortunately.
And now you’ll meet Dee-Dee Warren. She’s the jackass’s cousin. But you shouldn’t hold that against her. She’s also Kate’s best friend. I’ll show you.
“I saw you talking to the brunette with the nice rack. You go back to her place?” Matthew asks me. He, Jack, and I are having lunch at a diner a few blocks from the office. We’re discussing our most recent Saturday night.
“We didn’t make it that far.”
“What do you mean?”
I smirk, remembering what an exhibitionist the girl had been. “I mean that cab will never be the same again. And I think we scarred the driver for life.”
Jack laughs. “You’re such a fucking dog, man.”
“Nah, I saved doggie-style for when we were actually inside her apartment.”
Don’t give me that look again. We’ve been over this.
Guys. Sex. Talk.
Besides, despite the wild eagerness of Taxi Girl, the sex was sub-par. She wasn’t even Colgate. She was more like some generic brand of toothpaste they stock in low-grade hotel rooms whose name you can’t even remember after you brush with it.
“Hey, Kate,” Matthew says, looking behind me. I didn’t see her approach us.
We’ll stop here for just a moment. This is important.
See the look on her face? The thin line of her lips? The slight wrinkle of her brow? She heard what I said. And she doesn’t look too happy about it, does she? I missed this the first time around, but you should make a note of it. This moment will come back to bite me in the ass later on.
I turn to look at her. Her expression is now blank and passive.
“You want to join us?” I ask.
“No, thanks. I just finished having lunch with a friend, actually.”
And up walks her friend. She’s wearing ankle-high black boots, black tights that are ripped at strategic places up and down her legs, a miniscule skirt, a strapless hot-pink top, and a short knitted gray sweater. Her hair is long, strawberry-blond, and wavy, her lips a shiny red, and her quick amber eyes look us over beneath a curtain of thick dark lashes.
She’s…interesting. I wouldn’t say pretty, but striking in a sexy street-fashion kind of way.
“Matthew Fisher, Jack O’Shay, Drew Evans, this is Dee-Dee Warren.”
On hearing my name, Dee-Dee’s eyes turn sharply in my direction. It feels like she’s analyzing me—sort of how a guy would look at a car engine right before he busts it up.
“So, you’re Drew? I’ve heard about you.”
Kate told her friend about me? Interesting.
“Oh yeah? What’ve you heard?”
She shrugs. “I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.” She points her finger at me. “You just keep on being nice to my Katie-girl here. You know, if you’d like to keep your balls attached to your pecker, that is.”
Although her tone is light, I get the distinct impression Dee-Dee isn’t fucking around.
I smile. “I’ve been trying to show her how nice I can be. She keeps turning me down.”
She chuckles. Then Matthew interjects smoothly, “So, Dee-Dee…is that short for something? Donna, Deborah?”
Kate grins mischievously. “Delores. It’s a family name—her grandmother’s. She hates it.”
Delores gives Kate the stink-eye.
Shifting into pick-up mode, Matthew replies, “Delores is a gorgeous name, for a gorgeous girl. Plus, it rhymes with clitoris…and I really know my way around them. Big fan.”
Delores smiles slowly at Matthew and runs one finger across her lower lip. Then, she turns to the rest of us and says, “Anyhoo. I have to jet, gotta get to work. Nice meeting you, boys.” She hugs Kate and throws Matthew a wink as she walks away.
“She’s got to get to work?” I ask. “I thought the strip clubs didn’t open until four.”
Kate just smiles. “Dee’s not a stripper. She just dresses like that to throw people off. So they’re shocked when they find out what she really does.”
“What does she do?” Matthew asks.
“She’s a rocket scientist.”
“You’re fucking with us.” Jack voices what all three of us are thinking.
“Afraid not. Delores is a chemist. One of her clients is NASA. Her lab works on improving the efficiency of the fuel they use in the space shuttles.” She shudders. “Dee-Dee Warren with access to highly explosive substances…it’s something I try to not think about every day.”
After a beat, Matthew speaks up. “Brooks, you’ve got to hook me up. I’m a nice guy. Let me take your friend out. She won’t regret it.”
Kate thinks a moment. “Okay. Sure. You seem like Dee’s type.” She hands him a business card. “But I have to warn you. She’s the love-’em-and-leave-’em-with-bruises type of girl. If you’re looking for a good time for a night or two, then definitely call her. If you’re looking for anything deeper than that, I’d stay away.”
We’re speechless. And then Matthew rises from the table, walks up to Kate and kisses her on the cheek. I suddenly have the urge to put my hand down his throat and rip his tonsils out.
Is that wrong?
“You…are my new best friend,” he tells her.
Kate misreads the scowl on my face. “Don’t pout, Drew. It’s not my fault your friends like me better than you.”
She means Steven too. A few days ago, he was frantically trying to find the perfect place to take The Bitch for their wedding anniversary. Apparently, Kate’s neighbor is the maître d’ at Chez, the most exclusive restaurant in the city. She was able to get him a table for that evening.