“Absolutely unputdownable. Roni Loren is anew favorite." --Colleen Hoover, New York Times bestselling author 

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The One You Can't Forget

Book 2 - The Ones Who Got Away series

Most days Rebecca Lindt feels like an imposter...

The world admires her as a survivor. But that impression would crumble if people knew her secret. She didn't deserve to be the one who got away. But nothing can change the past, so she's thrown herself into her work. She can't dwell if she never slows down.

Wes Garrett is trying to get back on his feet after losing his dream restaurant, his money, and half his damn mind in a vicious divorce. But when he intervenes in a mugging and saves Rebecca—the attorney who helped his ex ruin him—his simple life gets complicated.

Their attraction is inconvenient and neither wants more than a fling. But when Rebecca's secret is put at risk, both discover they could lose everything, including what they never realized they needed: each other

She laughed and kissed him. This morning she'd melted down. But somehow this man had her laughing and turned on only a few hours later. Everything inside her felt buoyed.

She felt...light.

She'd forgotten what that felt like.

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Also available in audiobook: Recorded Books | Audible

 

Chapter 1

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There’s a reason why romantic movies only show the beginning of people’s love stories. That’s the exciting part, the thrill, the magic. There is something undeniably enticing about the ripe sense of possibility. What will their life become now that they’ve found each other?

Well, Rebecca Lindt could tell them. They had about a one-third chance of maintaining their happily-ever-after, a one-third chance of staying married but being miserable about it, and a one-third likelihood of ending up  in front of someone like her, battling it out over who gets to keep the Le Creuset pot collection or the riding lawn mower, even though neither of them cooks or cuts their own grass.

Today’s battle of the exes was over a crotch-sniffing standard poodle that somehow had made it into the office and the divorce mediation session. The wife was claiming the dog was her Official Emotional Companion (the words always spoken with utter reverence and implied capitalization by her lawyer) and therefore had to remain with her. Rebecca’s client, Anthony, was vibrating with barely leashed anger as he tried to explain through clenched teeth to the mediator that his wife had always hated the dog and that the poodle should remain with him.

Prince Hairy, the fluffy beast in question, didn’t seem to care either way. He just wanted to hunt beneath the table and give a filthy how-do-you-do with a wet nose to the private parts of every person in the meeting. Rebecca sent up a silent thank-you that she was wearing a pantsuit, but that hadn’t stopped her from feeling slightly assaulted every time the dog moved her way.

A wet tongue licked her ankle, sending a shudder through her, and she gently shooed the dog away, trying to keep her expression unhorrified and professional. But Raul, the other attorney, lifted a knowing brow at her. She had no doubt he’d be telling her later that she owed the dog a drink for all the action.

“Prince Hairy has been with us since he was a puppy,” the wife said, her tone curt, as if she was biting the words in half. “I named him. I take him to the groomer. He’s home with me when you’re at work. My therapist says that he’s part of my recovery. He is my Official Emotional Companion.”

“Emotional companion,” Anthony sneered, his calm breaking. “Come on, Daphne. Your emotional companion was the goddamned contractor you screwed in my bed!”

“Mr. Ames,” the mediator said, a schoolteacher-style warning in her voice. “You both chose mediation to avoid court, but in order for that to work, I need you to keep the accusations—”

Anthony scoffed. “Accusations? They’re not accusations if they’re true.”

Rebecca placed a staying hand on Anthony’s arm, silencing him and sending her own warning message. I’ve got this. Calm down.

Anthony deflated beside her, and Rebecca took over. “I think what Mr. Ames is trying to say is that there is no paperwork designating Prince Hairy as an emotional companion. He may, perhaps, be a comfort to Mrs. Ames, but he is not an official therapy dog.” He was just Daphne’s best bargaining chip because Anthony was ridiculously in love with the canine menace. “Therefore, that should not factor into the decision of where Prince Hairy will live. The dog was adopted under Anthony’s name. He is the one to take him for walks and to vet visits. Since Mr. Ames plans to remain in the home, he’ll have adequate space for him.”

“What?” Daphne demanded, her words ripping through the veneer of her pretend calm. “Are you effing kidding me right now? You are not getting the house.”

Effing. Rebecca smirked. They’d all agreed to no foul language during mediation. Daphne was apparently willing to fudge on the rules like she’d fudged on her marriage vows.

The mediator gave a deep sigh, clearly questioning why she’d chosen such a career path in the first place. Fridays made one do that anyway, but this one was going for the gold medal of Fridayness. “Mrs. Ames, we all agreed to keep our voices at a normal level.”

But Daphne was having none of it. Her lips were puckered as if she’d sucked a lemon, and there was fire brewing in her blue eyes. A fuse ready to blow.

“I’m getting the house,” Anthony said simply.

Rebecca smiled inwardly. And three, two, one…

Daphne stood, manicured hands pressed flat against the table and a dark lock of hair slipping out of her French knot. “You will not take my house from me, you worthless piece of shit. I just spent two years remodeling it.”

“And screwing the contractor.”

“Mr. and Mrs.—”

“It’s mine!” Her palm slapped the table, which earned a bark from Prince Hairy. “And I slept with Eric because you neglected me and were never home, and you…you…” Her gaze zeroed in on Anthony as she found her weapon. “You were bad in bed!”

Anthony bristled, but Rebecca gripped his arm tighter, praying he’d weather the low blow. When well prepped, people could deal with a lot of insults in mediation or court, but she’d learned men had a figurative and literal soft spot when their manhood was called into question.

“Mrs. Ames,” the mediator admonished.

“Excuse me,” Rebecca said, her tone utterly calm, which would only make Daphne look more out of order. “Can we have a minute? I’d like a private word with my client, and I think everyone could use a break.”

The mediator’s shoulders sagged with resignation, and she adjusted her glasses. “Five-minute break. Everyone needs to come back ready to be civil, or we’re going to have to end the mediation and let this go to court.”

Daphne huffed, and Raul soothed her with gentle words as he offered her a bottle of sparkling water. She took a long sip, her gaze still shooting daggers at Anthony. Raul nodded at Rebecca. “We’re going to take a little walk and bring Prince Hairy out for a bathroom break. We’ll be back in five.”

“Thanks,” Rebecca said, knowing that taking the dog with him was their version of posturing—acting like the dog was Daphne’s already—but Rebecca wasn’t worried. This was all going exactly as she’d planned.

Once the door to the conference room shut, Anthony turned to her, his perfectly styled brown hair a mess from him raking his fingers through it. “I’m not bad in bed. She’s lying.”

“Anthony.”

“Women always, you know, have a good time, and Daphne always, you know…” A hurt look filled his eyes as he let the sentence trail off.

A pang of sympathy went through Rebecca even though her patience for hand-holding was low on a good day and nearly nonexistent after a court battle this morning and mediation this afternoon. Anthony’s head was no doubt whirling. Was he bad in bed? Had his wife faked her enjoyment? Was that why she’d strayed?

Rebecca reached out and gave his shoulder a gentle squeeze. “Anthony, you know she’s just throwing out words to rile you up. I told you she’d say the ugliest things to get you off your game. This is a standard emasculation tactic.”

He blinked. “What?”

“The easiest way to knock a guy off his game is to insult his penis size or his ability in bed. Men seem to have some inborn need to defend against that type of insult.” In her head she called it the Dick Kick, but she couldn’t bring herself to say that to a client. “On the other side, men insult the woman by saying she’s  frigid or ugly, getting fat or old. When cornered, people strike right at the clichéd insecurities. It’s completely unoriginal and the tactic of someone who knows she’s losing the fight. It means we’re winning.”

Anthony gave her a you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me look. “Winning? She’s going to get her therapist to label Prince a therapy dog. She has that guy wrapped around her finger because she’s paying way more than he’s worth. Watch. Then I’ll lose Prince, too.”

His voice caught and he glanced away, hiding the tears that jumped to his eyes at the thought of losing his dog.

Rebecca frowned. She’d never had a pet because her father had deemed them unsanitary and high maintenance, but she was regularly amazed at how people would throw away everything to keep a pet or some sentimental item. She always preferred to have the client who was less attached to those things. Sentimentality made people irrational. You can take the eighty-thousand-dollar car as long as I can keep my mother’s china.

She didn’t get it. But, of course, when the mother you worship leaves your family without warning when you’re in fourth grade to go start a new family, you learn not to get attached to much. Nothing was permanently yours.

But Anthony was her client, and he’d told her in no uncertain terms that the dog was the number one priority. He was paying Rebecca to get what he wanted, so she would accomplish that because she was good at her job and not there to judge whether a crotch-sniffer trumped a million-dollar home.

Rebecca patted his arm. “I promise. This is going exactly how we want it to. As long as they don’t have any curveballs we didn’t prepare for, what we discussed will work.”

He looked up. “Curveballs?”

“Yes, any treasured items you didn’t tell me about that could make you fold.” Rebecca glanced at the door, making sure they were still alone, and casually rose from her chair and leaned over the table to flip open Raul’s folder. She read the neat handwriting upside down. There was a jotted list of notes and talking points. She recognized and expected most of them. House. 401(k). Cars. Time-share. Antique furniture. Jewelry. All things she’d gone over with Anthony. But one buried near the bottom caught her eye.

She quickly flipped the folder closed and settled back into her seat. She pinned Anthony with a look. “Tell me about the record collection.”

His eyes widened. “What?”

“They have it on their list to discuss.”

“They have what?” A bright flush of anger filled Anthony’s face. “Those are my goddamned records. I’ve been collecting them since I was fourteen.”

Uh-oh. “Have you added to the collection since you were married?”

“Yes, but—”

Great. “Is it worth a significant amount of money, or would it be hard to replace?”

His face paled. “I have original editions. Some signed. Some would be near impossible to replace. She can’t have it. That collection is… It’s my childhood.”

A sinking feeling settled in Rebecca’s stomach. “The dog or the records, Anthony? If you have to die on one hill, which one is it?”

“You want me to pick between my dog and a collection I’ve spent twenty years putting together? That’s impossible.”

“We could take this to court. You know we’ll have the upper hand.” She’d suggested this from the start. They’d both make more money if they went to court and showed fault. They had evidence. Daphne wouldn’t come across well. A big win would further Rebecca’s chances for making partner and would most likely get Anthony everything he wanted. Win-win.

Anthony shook his head and pressed his fingers to his brow. “I don’t think I can handle dragging this out. But my dog or my records?”

Rebecca shook her head, her tone no-nonsense. “I will work to get both, but if I have to cut one in order to get the other, I need to know which one to drop.”

But the door opened before he could answer, and everyone filed back in. Raul and Daphne looked smug as they walked the dog back into the office. Prince Hairy proceeded to duck beneath the table and plop down on Anthony’s feet.

Anthony gave Rebecca a forlorn look.

She lifted a brow, and he nodded.

The dog wins.

The mediator took her seat. “Okay, why don’t we start again, now that everyone has cooled down.”

Rebecca folded her hands on the table and straightened her back. Poker time. “I’ve talked with my client, and I believe we have a workable compromise. Mr. Ames will give Mrs. Ames the dog, his old records, the Mercedes, and her antique doll collection in exchange for the house and the SUV.”

Anthony went tense in his chair, and Rebecca could feel the What the hell are you doing? vibe coming from him, but she didn’t look his way.

Daphne’s eyes went comically wide. “My doll collection? That’s mine anyway.”

“It was acquired during the marriage.” Rebecca kept her tone professionally bored.

“The doll collection is off the table,” Raul said smoothly.

Rebecca made a note on her legal pad. “Then the record collection is, too.”

“Fine.” Daphne nodded. “Take your crappy records.”

Raul frowned, his sentimental bargaining chip slipping out of reach.

Rebecca fought a smirk. One down. “Okay, Ms. Ames, so you get Prince Hairy and will be solely responsible for his care and vet bills. Mr. Ames will get the house and will buy you out of your half. Agreed?”

“No,” Daphne said, glancing at her lawyer with a do something look. “I’m not leaving here without the house. I picked every paint color, every tile, chose every piece of furniture. It’s mine.”

“You could move in with your parents, Daph,” Anthony said casually, playing his part again. “Until you find another place.”

She blanched. “I’d rather kill myself than live with them. I’m not leaving my house.”

Anthony propped his chin on his fist as if settling in for a really good movie.

Rebecca tried not to grimace at Daphne’s comment. She’d never gotten used to how easily people tossed around those dramatic words. Threats of suicide and murder rolled off people’s tongues all the time, especially in divorce mediation. She knew it was just hyperbole, but in high school, two people had made those threats and then carried them through. No one had listened. They’d thought it was an exaggeration. She’d thought it was an exaggeration. They’d all been wrong. So very wrong.

Her stomach flipped over and she took a sip of water, trying to shake off the memories that were like the off-key elevator music of her life, never far in the background and always ready to turn up louder. She clenched her jaw, forcing her expression to remain neutral. “It seems we’re at an impasse.”

“Mr. and Mrs. Ames,” the mediator said. “If we don’t resolve this here, this will have to go to court. Try to remember that compromise isn’t losing. Seeking things just for revenge feels satisfying in the short term but will drag this process out, cost you more money with your lawyers, and create more stress for you. You will be dealing with each other for a long time. If we can resolve this here, you can walk away and not have to see each other again.”

“Well, there’s a bonus,” Anthony muttered.

“I’m not afraid to go to court to get my house,” Daphne said, her tone frosty.

Rebecca set her pen down and focused her attention on Daphne. “Mrs. Ames, I’m sure your counsel has warned you that if this goes to court, you’re going to risk losing more than you will if we can come to an agreement here. Texas allows fault to be shown in divorce. We have proof of your affair. These details will be fair game in court.”

Daphne wet her lips, and her throat worked.

Rebecca cocked a brow in a way that she hoped conveyed, Yes, all those dirty details you’re replaying in your head right now? They will be exposed in court. And no one is going to side with you after that because no one likes a cheater.

She had watched the incriminating video at Anthony’s side since he’d wanted to see the whole thing but didn’t want to do it alone. Daphne had forgotten about the security cameras her husband had installed outside by their pool, and she’d put on quite an X-rated show with the contractor one night when Anthony had been out of town. The explicitness of the video had made Rebecca feel equal parts uncomfortable and fascinated. She’d definitely never had that kind of intense sex. She’d never had the urge to literally rip someone’s clothes off to get to them. Frankly, she hadn’t realized people actually did that outside of movies. She couldn’t fathom being that…feral with anyone.

But seeing it had made Anthony vomit, and that was when Rebecca had understood the real story.

The man had truly loved his wife, and his world had just been ripped in half. He’d thought he was in one kind of movie and had ended up in another. He wasn’t the hero. He was the fool. He’d wound up in the wrong third of the statistics.

So Rebecca had no qualms about taking Daphne down. Cheaters deserved what they got. And, too bad for Daphne, they were Rebecca’s specialty.

“You’re trying to scare me,” Daphne said finally.

Rebecca leaned back in her chair and crossed her legs, relishing that calm, cool control that filled her veins in these moments. “I’m simply stating the facts, Mrs. Ames. Ask your lawyer if he thinks I’m exaggerating. If we go to court, you will be deemed at fault and the settlement will most definitely reflect that.”

Raul folded his hands and rested them on the table, his own poker face in place. “We’re prepared to go to court if necessary. My client will not bend on the house.”

“Mr. Ames, what would it take to compromise on the house?” the mediator asked. “If there’s nothing, then we should just move this to court.”

Anthony settled back in his chair, arms crossed casually, expression smugly confident. Rebecca wanted to cheer. The game had finally clicked for him. He was playing his part. He shrugged. “Sounds like I’d be better off going to court. That way I’ll get the house, the ridiculous dolls, the better car, and my dog. You’ll end up back home with your parents. You can call Eric and have him remodel your parents’ crappy seventies ranch to make your room real nice.”

Daphne’s jaw flexed, and Raul put a hand on her wrist as if sensing what was about to happen, but it was too late. She was already talking. “Fine. Take the stupid dog! I know that’s what you’re after. He’s a filthy, dumb waste of space anyway.”

Prince Hairy lifted his head beneath the table and whimpered, as if he recognized the description and took offense.

Daphne waved a dismissive hand. “Take him and whatever else of your junk you want. Just give me the house, my furniture, and my car. Then, you never have to see me again. I’m done with this crap.”

Rebecca gave a Mona Lisa smile.

Anthony’s chair squeaked as he sat forward, victory all over his face. “You’ve got a deal.”

Raul closed his eyes and shook his head.

But the mediator pressed her hands together in a silent clap. “Fantastic. Well done. I’m so glad you two could make this work. The agreement will be drafted up, and we’ll be finished with all of this.”

Another love story ended with a signature on a dotted line.

Daphne grabbed her purse and stood, her chair rolling behind her and banging against the wall. “You’re such a smug asshole, thinking you’re so much better than me. If you wouldn’t have treated me—”

“That’s enough, Mrs. Ames,” Rebecca said. “You’ve said your piece.”

Her attention swung Rebecca’s way. “And I don’t care that you’re some famous survivor or whatever. You’re a stuck-up, know-it-all bitch!”

“Daphne…” Raul warned.

But Rebecca held on to her polite smile, the words rolling off her like water on a windshield. Let Daphne have her tantrum. People had all kinds of preconceived notions about Rebecca when they figured out she was the Rebecca Lindt who’d survived the Long Acre High School prom shooting—that crying redheaded girl who was rolled out bleeding on a stretcher on the nightly news twelve years ago. These notions often involved shining light and singing angels, or that she had some secret sauce recipe on how to live a meaningful life. But she had news for them. Surviving a tragedy didn’t make you magical. It made you tough. Not special. Just lucky. “Have a nice day, Mrs. Ames.”

Daphne made a disgusted noise and flounced out the door without a goodbye. Her “emotional companion” didn’t even lift his head. Raul gave Rebecca a vaguely apologetic look. “Sorry about that. She’s just…processing all this.”

Rebecca smirked. “That’s one term for it. But no worries, I’ve been called worse. Probably by you on some days.”

He chuckled as he slipped his things into his briefcase. “Only when I lose. And only respectfully.”

She rolled her eyes but didn’t feel any malice toward Raul. She called him a smarmy bastard on the regular. Rebecca lifted her hand in thanks to the mediator as the woman escaped the room and probably headed to the nearest bar.

“I heard your dad’s running for state senate,” Raul said as Rebecca walked him to the door. “You gonna take his place when he’s elected?”

Rebecca shrugged. “Who knows? I’ve got to earn my way to partner here like anyone else, so it’s not up to me. But my last name’s already on the building, so it’d be economical not to have to change it.”

He laughed. “Right? You’d be doing them a favor. But I bet you have it in the bag anyway, no nepotism needed. Tell your dad I said good luck with the election.”

“Thanks, will do. Have a good weekend.”

They shook hands, and Raul followed the mediator out.

When Rebecca closed the door and turned around to face her client, Anthony pushed his chair back, let out a whoop of victory, and patted his thigh. “Come here, boy.”

The dog scrambled to his feet and leapt into Anthony’s lap with glee. The giant poodle was way too big to be a lapdog, but Anthony didn’t seem to mind. He buried his face in the dog’s copper-colored fur, which really did look like the color of Prince Harry’s hair, and let go a litany of mushy endearments.

Prince licked his owner’s face and made happy, huffing dog noises. Rebecca crossed her arms and shook her head as she stepped closer, amused. “I could’ve won you a lot more money and the house.”

Anthony looked up, absently rubbing the dog’s neck. “I know.”

“But the dog is worth it?”

“Of course he is. Look at him.” Anthony cupped Prince’s snout.

Rebecca eyed the ball of fur skeptically. “Well, if you’re happy, I’m happy.”

“Well, ‘happy’ isn’t the word, but relieved,” Anthony said. “Going to court would be too hard.” He looked down at the dog as if eye contact with Rebecca was too much. “Every time I look at Daph, even with all the anger, I can’t help but see the girl I fell in love with.”

Rebecca tilted her head. “Even when she’s calling you an asshole?”

“Yeah. I know that version of her I loved is not in there anymore, but I can still remember that feeling of when we first got together, that high. Love ends, but it leaves… I don’t know, imprints on you. Like the person I used to be still loves the person she used to be. I don’t want to have to see her in court and drag this out. I can’t watch that video again. It’d feel like having my guts ripped out fresh all over again. Like I’ve failed at something I thought couldn’t fail.”

Rebecca frowned. “I’m sorry.”

“Me too.” He leaned back in the chair with a tired look, stroking Prince’s neck. “You ever have a moment you wish you could just go back and change? I wonder what my life would look like right now if I hadn’t offered Daphne my umbrella the day we met, if I had just kept walking.”

A moment she could change? Rebecca tucked her hair behind her ears, her ribs cinching tight and her composure trying to falter. “No amount of wondering can change the past.”

Prince jumped from Anthony’s lap and settled at his feet, obviously exhausted by divorce mediation and philosophical conversation. Anthony absently brushed the dog hair from his slacks. “I know, and they say we shouldn’t want to change anything. The butterfly effect and fading photos in Back to the Future and all that. But would you change one moment if you could?”

Even though she tried to stop it, memories flashed through Rebecca’s mind like a gory movie. Thoughtless words. A boy seething with something sharp and dangerous. Because of her. Blood. Screams. The sound of gunshots. She swallowed past the dryness in her throat and ignored the phantom pain in her leg. “In a heartbeat.”

Anthony nodded solemnly like he was a comrade-in-arms. “Me too. I’d walk right by Daphne and let the rain soak her to the bone.”

Rebecca smoothed the wrinkles in her pants, trying to re-center herself, to push away the ugliness. “If you’d passed her by, maybe you wouldn’t have Prince.”

Anthony’s staid face broke into a slow smile. “You’re right. And he’s the best.”

“He better be,” she said with a tight laugh.

He rubbed the dog’s head. “To be honest, this is all I need. I’d rather be broke than go home to an empty house. The past week that Prince has stayed with Daphne has been rough. There’s nothing more depressing than knowing no one is waiting for you at home. That no one cares if you show up or not.”

The words pinged through Rebecca, hitting places she’d rather not examine. She forced a smile. “Right.” She stepped over to pet the dog, who immediately buried his nose between her legs. She took a big step back. “Well, I think this guy will definitely be happy to see you at the end of the day.”

“Yes. I don’t like to brag, but I am his favorite crotch.”

Rebecca chuckled. “High honor.”

“Indeed.” Anthony tapped Prince to get him to his feet and stood to shake Rebecca’s hand. “Thanks for everything. I won’t say it’s been fun, but at least it was quick.”

Sounds like most of the dates I’ve had in my life.

“You’re welcome. Sorry we had to meet under these circumstances,” she said and then walked Anthony out. Those were her standard parting words, but she meant them. People hoped to never need someone like her, and she found it a little depressing to know that this seemingly decent guy who’d loved his wife had ended up here, too.

But it was a story she saw every day. Anthony had bought into the infatuation model that was sold to everyone as “true love.” Trust that rush of endorphins and attraction at the beginning, and all will be okay. It won’t matter that the person is a completely impractical and incompatible choice. Believe the feelings. There’s magic at work.

But feelings lied, and magic wasn’t real.

Rebecca had spent her high school years as a hopeless romantic, in love with her best friend, thinking they were fated to be together, believing she was one of those special girls who’d get her happy ending. She’d even written a time capsule letter with her friends senior year, painting her perfect movie-like romance that she was going to have with her crush. She was going to be Sally to his Harry, Joey to his Pacey, Rachel to his Ross. Turns out she was Duckie. Or Dawson. Or worse, the geek with an underwear fetish from Sixteen Candles. Finn, the guy she’d hung all her hope on, had been in love with someone else the whole time. Still was.

She’d closed that chapter and wished him well, but she hadn’t forgotten the lesson. She also got a refresher every day at work. Love wasn’t just a risk. It was a bad bet. If she had to argue the case for it in court, the evidence would be stacked so high against it that she wouldn’t have a shot at winning. A lasting, loving marriage was a unicorn. And the person who loved the deepest in a relationship—the romantic, the idealist—was the one whose guts got ripped out in the end. No, thanks.

Rebecca paused in the hallway after Anthony left and looked at the clock, which was ticking closer to six. She considered calling it a day, but Anthony’s words about going home to an empty house were pulsing at the back of her brain like a bad headache. Maybe she should go out tonight. Have a drink at a bar. Maybe call one of her friends to go with her. Shake off that antsy feeling his words had stirred up.

She headed back to her office to give her email one last check and to make sure she had everything buttoned up before she called anyone. The most recent email was flagged and in bold to mark it as urgent. All emails from her dad were urgent. She clicked to open it.

Rebecca,
The firm’s charity fund hasn’t been assigned for this fiscal year. I’m putting you in charge of it. Choose a charity by the end of next week that will match up well with my campaign platform. Something everyone can get behind. Nothing animal-related. Nothing controversial. Needs to be people and community focused. We did the Long Acre fund last year, so we can’t do that again. Bethany can get you on the account once you’ve selected something.
Best,
W. L.

His initials, not Dad, because at work they were not father and daughter.

Rebecca groaned. She didn’t mind helping her dad, but the last thing she needed was another project on her plate, especially something that was all about the PR and not the actual charity. There was no pushing back on this kind of stuff, though. Lawyers who wanted to be partners took on extra things. And the daughter of William Lindt did not complain about added responsibility. She’d been taught that early on.

With a sigh, she got up and poured herself a cup of coffee and let go of any plans to go out tonight. If she had to make time to research charities next week, she needed to wrap up all her normal work tonight or it’d be hanging over her all weekend.

She started by making notes in the Ames file. Twice she caught her eyes drifting to the screenshots from the videos. She couldn’t see much of Daphne besides the rapt look on her face, but the tense, flexing muscles of the mostly naked contractor were hard to look away from. Rebecca usually found herself more attracted to men in suits, men who had a certain amount of polish, but maybe there was something to be said for a guy who was a little rougher around the edges and worked with his hands.

Love was a bad bet, but sex with a hot guy… That didn’t sound so bad.

She rolled her eyes at her R-rated thoughts and forced herself to finish her work. Before long, the sunset cast swaths of burnt-orange light over her desk, reminding her that she should be getting home.

To her empty apartment.

Where no one was waiting.

And no one would be getting naked with her.

She grunted and leaned back in her chair, rubbing the bridge of her nose. What was with her tonight? She couldn’t let Anthony’s words or these photos get to her.

She lived a busy life, was good at her job, had friends. She was comfortable being alone. If she felt pent-up sexual frustration sometimes, she knew how to handle things on her own. Frankly, taking care of things solo was more satisfying than the few awkward encounters with men she’d had along the way, and it saved her from having to explain the ugly, pitted scars on her leg—always a fun conversation. Her life worked.

Anthony hadn’t wanted to be alone, and look where that had landed him—in a messy divorce, crying over his dog. She wanted no part of that kind of drama.

With renewed resolve, she closed the file she’d been working on and shut everything down. This had been a good week. She’d won two cases. She’d gotten a few things in place for her father’s campaign. She deserved to be celebrating, not ruminating in her office.

A new plan formed quickly in her head. She’d pick up her favorite wine from the store down the street, get takeout and dessert from that fancy Italian restaurant that had just opened, and rent a new movie with a pretty guy to look at.

She wasn’t craving a date. She was just craving a break and a little indulgence. She didn’t need anyone else to give her that. She could handle it on her own.

She’d been doing it all her life.

Why stop now?