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their two-decade friendship.
She sighed again, feeling as melancholy as she had the day she
packed her bags and left their house. Devin had helped her since he
was bringing Brad home from the hospital that day. He d only stayed
one week. Dale needed two more weeks with therapy.
 I have to, Nik. I won t come between them. Come on. Let s go
before this storm s on top of us. She hopped in her car, waiting for
Nik to get in beside her.
It was better this way. They could move on, and she d find a place
to start her life over. Devin had given her the title to the building,
which had been under her name the whole time, after Brad told him
where to find it. She d sadly traced the butterfly sketch with her
fingers. She d accept the loss and take the insurance money
someplace far. New. Away from the childhood memories. From the
loves of her life.
And maybe someday she d convince herself that she had made the
right decision after all.
* * * *
 Senator Mitchell, sit back and take a look at the screen, please.
Brad switched the TV on and leaned back against his desk. The image
of the senator appeared on the plasma TV, receiving a very thorough
blowjob from a very pretty blonde. He grinned smugly as he watched
the senator s face turn white.
 How d you--what-- Senator Mitchell stammered, coming to his
feet.
Salsa Nights 183
 A friend from the strip club gave me a copy. So kind of him. I
wonder what your constituents, and your wife, would say about you
frequenting a gentleman s club and receiving sloppy fellatio from an
eighteen-year-old stripper called Bambi, Brad said, tilting his head
and pulling his eyebrows together.
The senator shook with shame and fury, and Brad guessed the
pathetic maggot was feeling defeated  You wouldn t, he said, his
voice cracking.
Brad smiled.  I would, senator. You or your boys come back into
this club or anywhere near my house, and this will be on national TV
within the hour. Now get out.
Devin smiled widely, showing his perfect white teeth, as he held
the door open, then slammed it after the slimy politician left.
 It s good to have friends, Devin observed, standing in the
middle of the office.
Brad grinned.  Yes, it is. And it s a good thing people who
blackmail are so predictable in having other bad habits. He grabbed a
bottle of Disaronno from the bar and filled a glass on the way back to
his desk.
His friend took a step closer.  I told you I was at your house when
Isabel was leaving, he started.
Brad froze at the sound of her name. She d come to see them in
the hospital, but he barely remembered her telling him she was
leaving. He remembered very little, actually. If he closed his eyes, he
could see her beautiful, caring eyes watching over him. He could feel
the warmth of her lips on his cheek a couple of times. And he could
still hear her soft giggles when he d made faces at the tasteless
hospital food she fed him.
He sat, taking a long drink of Isabel s favorite liqueur and allowed
the slow heat to pour down his throat.  Yes?
 I asked her what was next for her. She said she had to get her
students ready for their championship. It s tomorrow in Orlando. I
took the liberty of informing Calli she ll be in charge for the next few
184 Chalee Mar
nights and I booked a room for you and Dale where Isabel s staying,
in case you need more time to persuade her. Papers are on your desk.
Two printed confirmation e-mails lay tucked next to his computer
keyboard. He raised a brow and eyed his bouncer.  Oh? Anything
else?
 Yes. The morning the sleazy politician spoke with Isabel, he
implied you and Dale hit women. She said she never once believed
him.
Brad rose to his feet, anger ricocheting up his spine.  Why didn t
you tell me before the senator came here?
Devin gave him an amused grin.  What? And watch you open up
that wound and then go to jail? Sorry, boss. I hoped you d be working
on healing so you could go win her back.
He shook his head, exasperated at his very dear, very loyal friend.
 How is it that you got more out of her in less time than I did?
Devin raised a brow.  Well, I d like to say my charm works with
all the ladies, but yours is immune to it. Actually, I believe she
opened up to me because sometimes it s easier to trust someone
you re not in love with. It poses a lesser risk of getting hurt.
Brad humphed.  I only wish I could believe she loves us both, my
friend. That s just too complicated.
 I wasn t talking about her. You ve been so upset that she left you
that you haven t stopped to wonder why. Did it occur to you that she
loves you and Dale, but you never trusted her enough to tell her that
you both love her and you can both have her? What reason did you
give her to stay when she s worried about tearing your friendship
apart?
Brad opened his mouth, then closed it. He hung his head, angry at
himself. Shit.  How do you know all of this? he asked quietly.
 Your job the past few years has been to watch over Isabel. My
job has been to watch over Club Lava and you and Dale.
Salsa Nights 185
Brad raised his head and met Devin s steady gaze, seeing him in a
new light. He had a hell of a lot of respect for the man. With a short
nod, Devin walked out, leaving him alone in his dim office.
He leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes. She hadn t
believed the senator s lie. She worried about coming between him and
Dale. And he d been so worried about himself, he hadn t seen what
she must have been going through.
Brad shot to his feet and hurried out of the club. Damn it, she
loved him and Dale. She left because she was in love with them and [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]