Authors: Riley Murphy
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To Lillie, because where would I be without you? Comma hell, that's where.
And to Dee. Thank you for pointing out that I have underwear issues. Now I have another oddity to add to the list of my growing uniqueness.
First on the list is an important one. This shout-out is to my sister, Lisa. If you see this call me, as I'm still not convinced you're reading my books. I'm giving you seven days from release date to contact me. After that I'm calling bullshit on you! When I do, you'll owe me that very expensive dirty martini under the big beach umbrella. So save up.
Kyle, Brooke, Kim and Mom. I'm so fortunate to have all of you guys in my corner. You rock!
To Mike, who better not be reading this one. Seriously? Just no.
To my best friend, my honey, my husband, my forever love. Thanks for always being there when I need you. It's been a long time babe, but I still get a thrill when you walk through our door. Of course, if I keep telling you that your head will be too big to fit through it. I'm looking forward to the next chapter, you?
And to my dad… I miss you, but I'll see you after..
A Special Note From Riley
To each and every reader out there. Thank you for picking this one up! Because of you my characters can breathe. A good thing, as without breath my stories would only be words on a page. I'm sending a virtual hug to every reader who takes the time out of their busy schedules to rate and review my books, and/or who email me to share their thoughts about my stories. I so appreciate the feedback. I've said it before, but it bears repeating. You guys are the whole reason I'm doing this. I can't tell you how inspired I am to write after I read a review or receive a reader email. You're like my very own performance committee. Thanks for that! And thanks in advance for taking the time to let me know your thoughts. Hope you love David and Lacy as much I do.
After all their dates, the phone calls, texting and sexting, she’d purposely mislead him and David Hollan couldn’t believe it. Tamping down his anger he calmly eyed his friend and business partner, Ethan Whiteleather, and asked, “You’re sure about this?”
“I wish I could say no, but that’s not the case. The person who’s been at Lacy’s house on a daily basis is Joe the contractor, not our friend Jo.”
David sat down and thought about all the times Lacy had let him think otherwise. There was only reason she’d do this. “She’s sleeping with him.”
The adamant way Ethan said that one small, but important word made him feel infinitely better. If Ethan had more to say, David was going to listen before he came up with a plan to deal with the situation. “Again, you’re sure about that?”
“Look.” Ethan sat down on the arm of the couch opposite him and sighed. “I feel somewhat responsible. I was the one who suggested he do her remodel after doing such a great job on the build-out of the clinic.”
David picked up a pen and tapped it against the desk top. The action and accompanying noise escalating as his thoughts raced to one conclusion. Then he stopped tapping. “The fact that the contractor was there is not the problem. Her deception, that’s the problem.”
“Agreed. But here’s the way I see it. At least given everything Colin had to tell me.”
David took a deep breath, preparing himself for whatever Ethan’s wife had told him. He could tell by his friend’s stern expression he wasn’t happy being the bearer of this kind of news.
“Apparently, Lacy was interested in contractor Joe before she met you. They had one night of hot and heavy.” Ethan scowled and then said, “Take a pill. It was nothing. Some drunken petting, no more than that. But even if it were it was before you met. So get that look off your face. You don’t own her past and if you’re not prepared to be reasonable you won’t be part of her future.”
David glared. “Yeah, and how reasonable would you be if you were in my shoes?”
“Anyways, point is.” David got why Ethan ignored that question. There’d be nothing gained by him answering, and they both knew it. “Once she met you things with Joe obviously changed. This put her in some kind of mixing business with pleasure jam that she couldn’t get out of.”
David blinked and then tossed the pen on the desk. “How long did it take Colin to talk you into believing that pile of bullshit?”
“The whole reason Colin told me this at all was because she was pissed. Mad that our preferred contractor was ripping off one of our friends. All because the guy felt Lacy’d led him on.” David was drawing a blank and it was clear Ethan saw this as he continued, “When there was the prospect of a relationship developing between them—that would have been prior to you entering the picture—Joe had quoted prices.
prices and probably a better than usual hourly rate if he’d been smart. Then you come along and Lacy no longer wants to mess around with the guy. Suddenly she’s not getting the right products. At least not the ones she’d chosen to be installed. What she was getting instead, were excuses for the arbitrary changes.”
Although David was mad that someone was trying to take advantage of her, he still didn’t see why she’d felt the need to hide the guy’s presence. Worse, that she’d let him believe contractor Joe was actually her girlfriend. It made no sense.
Ethan stretched his back. “Admittedly, she’s a pushover and comes off as kind of spacey sometimes, but that’s no reason for the guy to try and pull this kind shit.”
David’s wheels were turning as he looked away. No one knew Lacy the way he did. She was smart and funny, but that wasn’t what drew him to her. It was the sense of loneliness that surrounded her. Even in a crowded room, with all her friends at her side, she seemed alone. Or maybe forsaken. Probably because most of those people did write her off as being a flake. But he hadn’t. “She’s not spacey.”
“You may be right about that.”
He looked back. “Oh?”
“Yeah. Apparently she’s figured out a way to get the things she wants from him after all.”
David narrowed his eyes. “How?”
“That my friend is for you to figure out, and when you do tell me. Colin was pretty tight-lipped about it though, so be prepared.”
David would be. He sat there preparing himself for nearly an hour after Ethan left. Lacy had made a mistake, but so had he. He never should have given her enough rope to hang herself. What he should have done was tie her up so tight she wouldn’t have been able to fuck-up this bad. He’d been patient and careful with her. Going against his better judgment at times, all in the name of getting her used to his lifestyle, but no more. He thought about the annual trip she was planning to take. How dead set on going she was even after he’d asked her not to. Now there would be no asking. She wasn’t going. Period. That decided, he dialed a familiar number and waited.
“Store of O.”
“Ken? It’s David Hollan.”
“Hey,” the store manager drew this out. “Long time no speak. How have you been? What do you need?”
“I’ve had better days, actually. You wouldn’t happen to have a Queen Ann in medium in stock, would you?”
Ken whistled and then said, “Someone’s been naughty, eh? Let me check. Yep. Anything else? You want it delivered?”
“A paddle, and no thanks. I’ll be swinging by shortly to pick them up.”
“Great. Are you looking for straight bamboo or do you want something a little tamer like The Butt Burner, Sting Factor or Attitude Adjuster?”
“Straight bamboo. Also with the Queen Ann, I’ll need the heavy duty padlocks.”
“Store policy so I have to ask. You want these items gift wrapped?”
David thought by the time he stopped at the store and drove to Lacy’s place he’d be in a better frame of mind, but he wasn’t. Seeing Joe’s pickup truck in her driveway didn’t help.
He rang the bell and when no one answered he walked in. He was half way through hall when he spotted him. “Joe?”
The guy was shirtless with his pant legs bunched to his thighs as he kneeled on a flat mat that was dusted with something. Small particles of some kind. He would have guessed it was uncooked rice, but from this distance it didn’t look like it.
“Mr. Hollan?” Joe continued to face the cement block wall with his arms up and hands behind his head. “Is Mr. Whiteleather with you?”
“No.” David frowned as he examined the big guy’s perfectly submissive pose. What the fuck was going on here? “Is Ms. Pembrook at home?”
“She’s taking a bath.”
David stalked over to the chair Joe’s shirt was slung over. Grabbing it up he went to the guy and held it down to him. “Here, put this on and then I’m going to kindly ask you to leave.”
“But the timer hasn’t gone off.”
David looked around and when he spotted the egg timer—the one he’d bought for her—sitting on a box. He wanted to smash it. Instead he picked it up and forced the dial to zero so it
. “There, it went off now.”
Joe’s eyes shot up. “But—” One look and he was smart enough to whisper, “Yes, sir.”
David had a look around and knew that Ethan had been right about one thing. The change in materials. The light and bright décor Lacy had told him she wanted was now earth tone with a Tuscan feel. He turned to confront Joe on this, but then was glad when he saw the guy was gone. Now was not the time to tackle him over this. He needed to deal with Lacy first.
Heading to the couch, he put down the heavy brown bag and scowled. How was it that she was ready to leave and fall off the end of the earth for two weeks, as she called it, when things were in such disarray here? The veterinary clinic’s grand opening was in less than a month and she was still living out of boxes. He’d always thought her meandering through life was a by-product of her being easy going, but it was more than that. Much more. She needed him.
He stared hard at the bathroom door as another truth came to him. The direct counterpoint to that? He needed to be needed. Really needed. Not for inconsequential things. Not for money or sex, but for something more integral. A purpose that was hard to define, because it was all-consuming and irreplaceable as it consisted of deeper life lessons. Soul changing shit. No one ever talked about the journey a good Dom took to commit himself to a sub, but here it was. The quintessential line drawn in the sand for him to accept and cross, or deny and turn away from. And here he’d been stepping forward with gusto while she had turned away with one foot planted at the exit and the other on the proverbial banana peel.
Why was she leaving now?
When he looked down and spotted her airline ticket, he was going to reach for it, but then noticed the leather portfolio off to one side on the table with images scattered around. They were precise and graphic sketches. His first thought was that they’d been taken out of a textbook. They were of a size and certainly good enough to be templates but then he noticed the signature at the bottom of each one and frowned.
“Well I’ll be damned.” Picking up the closest drawing, he examined the delicate printing. Script so elegant and neat it would make his tight-ass architect jealous.