If Only

“In that moment I understood that the cruelest words in the universe are if only.”

                                                 

I'm — Lisa See, Peony In Loveragraph. Click here to add your own text and edit me. It's easy.

"You look like someone ran over your dog," Tom remarks as he slides into his seat.

 

"Have you seen this morning's paper?" I demand, glaring at him for being obtuse.

 

"I've read the paper, watched the news, and will, no doubt, hear about it on the radio driving home. The question is; why do you care? Other than that being pissed off that he's come out of this smelling like a bed of roses, that is."

 

"Let's order," I suggest, not wanting to discuss Adam.  I'm sick to death of thinking, talking and reading about Adam Thorne.  Since our altercation at Angelique’s, I, like Tom, have blamed him for my misery.  The rational part of me disagrees, of course.  I know my actions led me down the path of destruction and that Adam was just doing his job, but being rational doesn’t lessen my resentment, especially not today.

 

While my rancor centers on my feelings for Angelique, the reason for Tom’s bitterness is two-fold.  Mostly, it’s because his ego has taken a battering by legal pundits in the media.  In their post-analysis, they've concluded that my deadlocked verdict is due to me testifying.  Adam, they unanimously agreed, bested Tom both strategically and in his courtroom performance.   Tom. of course, disagrees.  He insists that he won the courtroom battle.  “He didn't convince the jury,” he asserts, choosing to ignore the fact that eleven jurors found me guilty. 

 

Tom also can’t or won’t relinquish his belief that Adam should have recused himself.  In his view, Adam owes us because of our friendship at Harvard.  His claim is as unwarranted as my grudge against Adam; he owes us nothing.  Our friendship had been firmly in the past when the Cordi case broke, and, truthfully, we didn't ever consider him a long-term friend.  Neither Tom nor I had any intention of continuing the association after graduation.

 

Adam and I met on registration day at Harvard Law,School and it didn't take me long after starting a conversation with the seemingly withdrawn guy to realize that he isn’t only extraordinarily bright, but that he also possesses more determination than almost anyone I know, my father being the notable exception.  After getting to know him better, I decided that Adam isn’t withdrawn, he’s self-contained.  Despite enjoying each others’ company, he didn’t actively pursue mine, nor did he appear to need friends like the majority of students on campus did.

 

I introduced Adam and Tom.  His family and mine belong to the same social set, and we attended the same schools, so our friendship was inevitable.  Socially, we had little in common with Adam, but he, Tom, and I attended the same lectures, and we all, coincidently, lived in the same building.  So, despite our differences, it made sense that we'd become friends while at Harvard.

 

For me, studying law had been a prerequisite for advancing my political career, and it was natural, given our friendship and the fact that his maternal grandfather was a partner in a reputable law firm, that Tom would follow the same path. To this day, however, I have no idea why Adam chose law.  All he ever said when quizzed on the subject was that he believes in our legal system and wants to play a part in seeing justice served.  Tom argued that the real money is to be made in private practice, but Adam couldn’t be swayed from his goal of becoming a prosecutor.

 

We met his family when they visited campus—his adoptive family as we later discovered them to be.  They, like Adam, seemed decent, even if none of them shared our background.  The Thorne’s must be more successful than they appear because Adam, I learned through a family friend with Harvard connections, was a full-paying student.  Adam refused to discuss his finances or anything personal like his adoption, and I often wondered what he was so determined to keep hidden.

 

Tom had been instantly taken with Adam’s sister, Caitlin’s, beauty and remained interested despite her disability.  Both he and I were shocked at Adam’s violent reaction when he discovered they were casually dating.

 

"Fucking stay away from my sister!" he threatened, vibrating with anger as he pinned Tom against a wall.  Adam and I knew how Tom treated the women he dated, so I understood his concern, but, still, I was shocked by the level of Adam’s aggression.

 

"Hey, I really like her…" Tom tried to calm him.

 

"I don't give a shit!  You're not treating my sister like some easy lay.”  He tightened his grip on Tom’s throat, making it almost impossible for him to breathe or speak.  I tried to intervene, but Adam glared at me.  "You knew, and you didn't tell me?"

 

"It isn't any of my business…" I protested.

 

"Well, it's my fucking business. You should have told me," he spat.  I didn’t respond, but I mentally acknowledged, then, that I viewed Tom and myself as being 'us' and Adam as one of 'them', a distinction I'd learned at an early age.  My father schooled me to understand that we are the rich and influential, who would set me on the path to my political destiny, and they are the people I'd need to convince to vote me into office.  In a way, my father, when learning about my friendship with Adam, viewed our relationship as proof of my ability to win 'them' over.

 

Tom managed to convince Adam that he hadn't slept with Cait and that he'd treat her with respect.  Adam released him with a warning.  "My sister's nothing like the girls you go around with.  If I find you've done any of the shit you usually get up to with her, I'll take your fucking head off.  I don't give a damn about the consequences," he said.

 

People say and do rash things in the heat of the moment, I know, but Adam, I believed, meant every word.  Tom, despite his bravado, thought so too.  He and Cait stopped dating soon after.  The decision had, apparently, been mutual and the split amicable, but I wondered just how much Adam had influenced Tom’s decision.  Adam stopped monitoring Tom's every move, and I was relieved when things between the three of us returned to normal.

 

Well, they appeared unchanged, but looking back, I realize that particular incident had been the defining point of our friendship.  We'd drawn an invisible line in the sand and chosen sides that day; Tom and I on one side, and Adam the other.  We didn't acknowledge the divide; we continued as friends, doing the things college students are renowned for—parties and women featured heavily in our extra-curricular activities.  Adam, however, didn't always participate—for him, studies took priority .

 

We were all ambitious, but Tom was more relaxed about his academic achievements than Adam and me.  He had none of the pressures my father placed on me. His expectations, kept me focused.   I'm not sure what drove Adam because his family, I could tell, would be happy as long as he did his best.  Whatever his driving force was, he never lost sight of it—not for any party and not for any one of the dozens of females who chased after him.  Any casual liaison or date fitted around his workload. 

 

Our last social outing was on graduation night.  We partied hard and the next day, parted company in high spirits, still friends.  Neither Tom nor I chose to contact Adam after, and he didn’t once reach out to us.  I didn't think about it at the time.  'It is, what it is,' would probably have summed up my feelings on the matter.  I did, however, ponder it throughout the trial and after.  I didn't lose contact with Adam because I forgot about him.  Since joining the DA's department, he’s attracted nearly as much media attention as I do.  The ugly truth, I now admit, is that I chose to ignore our friendship.  I didn’t see myself needing it or him. 

After my arrest, both Tom and my father remained optimistic about Adam’s role as prosecutor.  “We’re friends,’ Tom responded to my reminder of how smart and tenacious Adam is.  His meeting to ask Adam to recuse himself had been the first time either of us had contacted Adam since leaving Harvard, and Tom's response to Adam’s refusal had been predictably scathing.  He swore to 'beat his ass in court.'  I, on the other hand, even before they met, held no illusions that Adam would make allowances for any relationship, past or present, when it came to prosecuting me, or any case, for that matter.

 

My father and Tom spent hours discussing strategy—that is, after Joshua Justin Wade tore strips off me for being a damned fool for failing to keep my sexual exploits out of the public eye.  Most of what he said remains unprintable, but he made his opinion of my stupidity for allowing some 'strumpet' to get under my skin crystal clear.

 

"She's just a piece of skirt—one other men have bought and sampled," he fumed.  "How the hell could you have been so careless?  Surely you could have bedded her without signing a contract?  She's a goddamn prostitute!  You've jeopardized everything this family's worked toward for decades!"

 

I tried to defend Angelique’s reputation and my actions, but I soon understood the futility.  Nothing I said would make any difference to my father, and Tom had always thought what he considered my obsession with Angelique as unhealthy.  "You're treating her like your mistress, not a paid escort," he'd often warned.

 

He failed to see that Angelique isn't like the other girls at Liaison.  He doesn't know and would never understand just how inexperienced she was when I met her, or how unspoiled she remains.  He wanted her too, that was obvious.  Not in the same way I did, but he definitely lusted after Angelique.  Tom once suggested that we share, and I was forced to disabuse him of the idea.  I'm not ashamed to admit that he and I had, on occasion, shared the pleasures of a woman, but we’d been younger, and I'd seen no reason to turn down a willing female.  Angelique is and remains different.  She'd never condone such behavior, and I certainly didn’t want to share her with anyone, not even my best friend.  That was why I reached the agreement with Joseph.

 

I met Joseph Cordi as a political supporter of my father.  The Cordi family had a shady history, but none of the allegations against them were proven, and, as my father pointed out at the time, many respected and influential families have successfully survived a dubious past.  "The trick is to ensure allegations can never be substantiated," he'd said.

 

So, when Joseph expressed interest in forging a relationship, I didn’t resist.  He invited me to his exclusive club, and I enjoyed the atmosphere, the company of influential men, and the discreet company of the hostesses.  I introduced Tom, and after Joseph’s assurances of confidentiality, we both joined.  When I learned the truth about Liaison, I was shocked, but not for long.  Prostitution is the oldest profession, after all.  I'm hardly a prude, but I expressed concern about the illegalities to Joseph, and he promised to phase it out.

 

I avoided those activities until I succumbed to Natasha Perkins' very blatant charms.  By then, Joseph had granted me access to his private entrance.  That, coupled with the club’s security measures convinced me that my indiscretions would remain private.  Had I stopped at casual liaisons, this mess may never have happened, but meeting Angelique changed everything. 

 

I first became aware of her when, one evening, Joseph joined Tom and me in the members' lounge.  "I'd like your opinions on the next dancer," he said.

 

"What's so special about her?" Tom asked.

 

"I think she could be special," was all Joseph would say.  I vividly recall first seeing her on that darkened stage.  Her ivory skin glowed in the single light focused solely on her; her dark hair cascaded down her back, nearly to her waist, and her body, slim, but shapely and oh so sinuously graceful.

 

A song I vaguely recognized started, and when she moved, she robbed not only me of breath, but, I think, every male present.  Her performance lacked the sexual overtones I'd come to expect.  Instead, her dance was a combination of classical movements, which only a professional dancer could have executed with such ease and grace.  Her routine felt contemporary, reminiscent of yet different from ballet, which gave it a tasteful eroticism.

The room descended into stunned silence that lasted for long moments after it ended.  She rose from her final pose, looking vulnerable and unsure.  And then, with still no reaction from her audience, sank into a low, graceful curtsy.  Without thinking, I stood and applauded, shocking myself and everyone else.  Such behavior was definitely not encouraged.  Tom joined me, and soon, others took to their feet.  Joseph stayed seated, seemingly unmoved, but I noticed the glimmer in his eyes when, later, I questioned him about the woman whose name, he told me, is Angelique.  I’d been bitterly disappointed and intrigued to learn that she wouldn't be available as an escort.  'Yet', Joseph added cryptically but refused to elaborate when I asked what he meant.

 

I attended every performance of hers for weeks before I surrendered to my burning need to meet her.  She didn’t mingle with members, so I approached another of the girls and through her, invited Angelique to join me for a drink.  Sarah seemed reluctant at first.  "She's not an escort, Senator," she informed me.

 

"I'm inviting her for a drink, nothing more," I reasoned.  I expected a rejection but was pleasantly surprised when Angelique joined Tom and me at our table.  She proved to be more than beautiful.  I found her appealing in every way, and I wanted her in ways I hadn’t wanted a woman before.  Tom behaved boorishly that night, dropping sexual innuendos, which unsettled Angelique.  I held her hand to reassure her, and I was still clasping it when Joseph appeared.  Noticing our joined hands, he made some remark, suggesting that she belonged to him.  Angelique, clearly offended, left.

 

"You want her," he said matter-of-factly.

 

"I'm sure most men want her, Joseph.  She's extraordinarily beautiful, but I believe she's not available," I replied curtly.

 

"Angelique will come around to my way of thinking," he said, self-assured.   "And when she does, you and I may come to some mutually satisfactory arrangement, Justin."

 

I chose not to respond, and the subject became moot because she left Liaison.  Months later, Joseph informed me that she'd be back, this time, as an escort.

 

"Given our friendship, I'm prepared to make her available only to you," he offered.

 

"Why would you do that?" I asked suspiciously.

 

"Because you're a friend, and I know you want her."  He was right.  I did want her, I had from the moment I first saw her, and that feeling only increased after I met her.  The fact is, I still want Angelique, even now, despite her being out of my reach.

 

My breath caught in my throat, and my body stirred at the sight of her on the night O'Flaherty led her into my private room.  Her eyes, the color of amber, were wide and fearful as they roved her surroundings.  She bit her full, bottom lip nervously; the unconscious action increased my arousal.  It was hard to miss her little intake of breath when her eyes landed on me.  I dismissed O'Flaherty with a cursory gesture and concentrated on putting Angelique at ease.  I told her how wonderful it was to see her again, then made her comfortable on the sofa, and offered her a glass of wine.  She declined, requesting a club soda instead.  Her hand trembled as she reached for the drink.

 

"What can I do to make you feel more comfortable?" I asked.

 

"Why do you do this"? she replied, shocking me with her honesty.

 

"Why do I do what?  Come here, or pay for your services?"  I tried to buy time, but she simply nodded, waiting for a response.  Something in her manner compelled me to be truthful.  I explained that I had a position to uphold, that I was expected to live up to my family's legacy, and that, at some stage, I'd be expected to marry the right woman.  "The women deemed suitable don't interest me.  I find paying for the services of a beautiful woman, who'll do my sexual bidding, and who I don't have to make any commitments to, suits me—until I have to settle down," I admitted.

 

She asked how many women I'd paid for, and I told her I'd had casual relationships for much of my adult life, but that she was only the second woman I'd paid for sex.  I asked about her; whether she'd serviced a man for money before.  She was appalled and said she hadn't.  She refused to elaborate on other relationships, the subject apparently uncomfortable for her.  I mentioned her dancing, and she informed me that she'd been classically trained but suffered an injury that prevented her from performing professionally.  Angelique declined, again, to elaborate, asking about my political life instead.  I kept her entertained with frivolous anecdotes until she seemed relaxed.

 

I kissed her, and she stiffened in my arms, but I persisted until she hesitantly responded.  Her taste, the feel of her skin was maddeningly intoxicating.  Her nervousness was like a torch flaming my jaded senses.  I found it a challenge to extract a response from her.  Her pained gasp and the lone tear when I entered her deterred me for only a moment.  I realized, then, just how inexperienced Angelique was, but, instead of regretting destroying her innocence, I reveled in it.

 

I told her she was a gift, called myself a lucky bastard, then kissed her roughly, feeling proprietorial.  I wanted her again, immediately, but refrained because, despite having gained a physical response from her during sex, I knew it had been involuntary.  Angelique felt betrayed by her body, I could tell, and she was emotionally fragile.  Finally, I did the honorable thing and got dressed.  "Wednesday, Angelique, at the same time," I instructed and left.  Now, thinking back to that night, I see just how much of a bastard I'd been.

 

I stopped having liaisons with Natasha, and I couldn't get my fill of Angelique.  I knew she'd never completely accept her situation, but she appeared to come to terms with her role as paid escort.  I started, even at that early stage, to develop feelings I hadn't expected or wanted.  I was unable to determine exactly what it was or why I felt differently about Angelique, but when my feelings became too confused or overwhelming, I punished her by being dismissive and leaving abruptly after having sex.  I knew, of course, exactly how that behavior made her feel, but I continued.  I even resorted, on occasion, to making comments that left her in little doubt that I viewed her as nothing more than a paid escort.  That had, most definitely, not been the case, but I kept that fact to myself.

 

Overall, I felt that Angelique and I were in a relationship of sorts, and I sensed she shared my view.  I should have known that Joseph couldn't be trusted, but I was shocked when he reneged on his promise to have Angelique see me exclusively.  He didn’t even inform me that he'd changed his mind; I found out when I called to arrange a meeting, and Angelique fell into an awkward silence.

"What is it?"  I demanded.  Her voice caught as she quietly told me that Joseph had arranged for a liaison between her and another member.  Blinded by anger and assailed by a foreign feeling of jealousy, I pretended the situation didn’t bother me, but I became rough and sexually demanding immediately before and after she'd been with anyone else.  I'd leave abruptly after, without uttering a word.  I’d known it was emotional fuckery, but, still, I persisted.   it gave me some feeling of control over the situation—over her.

 

Two incidents brought things to a head.  The first was when Tom nonchalantly suggested approaching Joseph to arrange a liaison with Angelique.  I reminded him calmly that there were plenty of other escorts who'd better meet his needs.  In reality, the thought of him doing some of the perverted things with her that I knew he liked, made me see red.  Later that night, in Angelique's company, he mentioned that we'd shared women.  I stormed out, demanding that he follow me.

 

"What the fuck was that all about?" I asked when we made it to a spot where no one would overhear.

 

"What?  She's a goddamned escort, Justin, not your girlfriend. You'd do well to remember that."

 

"If you value our friendship, you'll never speak about or to Angelique like that again," I threatened. 

 

Tom held up his hands in mock surrender.  "Fine, but I still think you're crazy.  She's a pro…"

 

"Shut your fucking mouth," I hissed, and he grinned wryly before returning to the room where Angelique nervously waited.  If we hadn’t been in a public place, I would probably have smashed my fist into his smirking face.  He was smart enough to not say anything more about my relationship with her until after my arrest.

 

The second incident occurred when, out at an obligatory dinner with Cynthia, I spotted Angelique dining with Robert Brennan, an actor and a member of Liaison.  I knew he'd booked her before, and the sight of her, looking so beautiful and comfortable on what appeared to be a date, left me unreasonably angry and jealous.  I knew she had no choice in the matter, but the sight shook me.  To me, it was a reminder that Angelique might find a way out of Liaison and out of my life.  I chose to coldly ignore their presence, even when he civilly nodded a greeting and her eyes clouded over with hurt at my snub.  Cynthia noticed my mood change and asked what the matter was.

 

"Nothing," I said tersely, but she’d noticed Angelique.  "Do you know her?" she asked.  "I denied knowing her of course but, for some reason, denying Angelique niggled at my conscience.

 

Days later, I informed Joseph that I wanted to buy Angelique’s exclusive services.  His smug smirk led me to believe he’d deliberately granted me a taste of her, knowing that I once I had her, I wouldn’t want to share her.  I wondered, then, whether he'd anticipated, perhaps planned, this from the start.  I expected him to name an exorbitant price for Angelique, but he surprised me when he suggested a very reasonable sum and a business partnership as part of the deal.  I saw through his motives, and, despite my resentment, I felt a momentary admiration for how well he'd manipulated the situation.

 

I knew having a Wade as a shareholder in his company would reap him countless rewards.  I tried to negotiate terms, which excluded the Fidelity Properties' shareholding, but Joseph wouldn't budge.  He insisted that any agreement for Angelique would be contingent on my accepting his business proposal.  I researched the company cursorily, and after days of fruitless discussions during which Joseph pointedly reminded me that he could earn a lot more by hiring Angelique out to other men, I signed the damned agreement.

 

I attended one Fidelity management meeting, satisfied myself with the general manager's competency and then handed everything over to my accountants to manage.  My agreement for Angelique gave me everything I desired.  I had her to myself, at my beck and call, really, while still pursuing my political and personal life.  Things with her were uncomplicated and highly satisfactory, and even though she never uttered a word of complaint, I knew seeing me out with other women must have rankled, if not hurt.  I rationalized my behavior as being necessary for maintaining my image of the eligible, single senator.  It also served to deflect pressure from my father for me to settle down and marry the right woman, which, in his view, is Cynthia Buchanan, daughter of his life-long friend, Arnold.  The Buchanan family's political history is almost as impressive as ours.  Marriage between Cynthia and me, in both our fathers' eyes, would be a match made in political heaven.

 

I’ve tried to love her, but it just hasn't happened.  I'll eventually do what's expected of me, I know—marriages of convenience are hardly rare events in our circles.  Cynthia knows and understands this, and that's why our on again off again relationship continued.  She did love me, possibly still does.  I wasn't sure how to feel about tha, and that uncertainty was probably why I continued to date other females.  Perhaps, I'd hoped Cynthia would tire of waiting for me to make a commitment, that she'd find someone else and save me from having to disappoint both families.  Maybe I was searching for someone suitable who could make me feel more than mere affection.

 

My contented bubble burst when news about the investigation into a major drug and prostitution network leaked.  Somehow, despite Joseph’s watertight security, my association with Liaison had been uncovered.  I was shocked to learn of the possible extent of his illegal dealings, and I’d barely digested that information when my father rang to ask whether there was any truth in the rumor of my involvement in a brothel.  I visited to discuss the matter, and I can honestly say I'd never seen him that angry before.  He remonstrated with me, not for paying for sex, but for being stupid enough to be found out.  He told me to make sure I had legal representation because, in his words, "You're going to need it to get out of this unmitigated mess you created."

 

I didn't reveal my contract for Angelique's services then.  Instead, I called a hasty meeting with Tom and my cousin Josh at which, we drafted an official 'no comment' response for the media.  Tom offered his legal services, and I hired him as my lawyer.

 

"I know I don't need to remind you not to engage the media, Justin.  Either Josh or I will deal with them," he warned, and I readily agreed.

 

"I should call Angelique," I said.

 

"You can't contact her, not while the spotlight's on you.  We have to do everything possible to ensure you're not implicated more than you already are," he pointed out.  "I'll explain things to her."

 

"Okay.  For now; but I intend seeing her," I announced firmly.  Tom reported back soon after, telling me he'd spoken to Angelique.  "She understands and agrees with our plans," he said.  "She's coping well," he added when I asked.  "She's promised not to speak to anyone about you."

 

"I could have told you that!" I responded tersely, annoyed that he’d consider Angelique capable of indiscretion.

 

At that stage, we were hoping Joseph’s security measures would prevail and that rumors of my involvement would remain unfounded, that they’d eventually fizzle out.  I'd be able to see Angelique then, I told myself, but thing didn't pan out that way.  News reports hinted at the discovery of more evidence about the drug ring, and then, of course, Joseph and his brothers were arrested.  I watched the television in a state of shock as he was escorted out of a gala event.  The second surprise of the night was seeing Adam address the media.  I knew, then, that he'd lead the prosecution, and, somehow, I also knew my involvement with Joseph would be uncovered.

 

My sense of foreboding was justified when, days later, two detectives arrived at my office and invited me to accompany them for questioning.  I recognized the one in charge instantly as the man who'd appeared with Adam on the night of Joseph’s arrest.  I refused to say anything before Tom arrived so, together, we learned of the documents found in Joseph’s home.  I understood, then, the extent of my trouble.  It would have been pointless denying my shareholding in Fidelity, but I vehemently denied knowing about the company's ownership of Liaison and several other nightclubs.  I seethed with anger at Joseph’s deception.  Perhaps I should call it manipulation because that's what it had been.  I knew about the prostitution at Liaison of course, but I had no idea Fidelity owned the place—that it, in fact, owned a network of brothels.  I'd been expertly played, I realized and was unsurprised when I was charged with several prostitution-related crimes.  I felt abjectly humiliated when asked to hand over my possessions, including my belt, before being escorted to a cell.

 

That shame was surpassed when, released on bail, I faced my parents.  My father was practically apoplectic as he repeatedly informed me how deplorably stupid I'd been, and how I'd dishonored the Wade name.  "You could have reached the highest office in the land, something generations of your ancestors have worked tirelessly toward.  You're a disgrace; I'm ashamed to call you son.  You're going to listen to me now and do everything to save your political career, do you hear me?”  One glance at my mother's devastated face, and I agreed.

 

We held several meetings that included my father, Tom, Josh, Arnold Buchanan, and me, to develop a strategy for my trial and to mitigate the damage to my reputation.  I was surprised by and quite honestly grateful for the Buchanans’ support.  I wouldn't have blamed them, especially Cynthia, if they’d decided to have nothing to do with me ever again.  My father wanted Cynthia and me to present a united front for the media, and I didn't object because I could see sense in it.   Being seen in a steady relationship would help salvage my reputation.

 

My meeting with Cynthia was awkward and predictable.  She cried and then interrogated me about Angelique.  I told her I wasn't prepared to discuss my relationship with Angelique.  "Relationship?  You're in a relationship?  She's a prostitute, Justin!  How could you do this to me?" she exclaimed.

 

"I've never made you promises, Cynthia," I responded bluntly.

 

"You didn't say the words, but our relationship is understood.  Our future has always been understood.  You risked it for a prostitute."

 

"Don't call her that!  Our fathers may have planned our future and staked a claim in my success, but I haven't promised you anything," I returned angrily.

 

"Are you saying you don't want a political union, that you have no intention of marrying?"  Are you prepared to sacrifice your ambitions?" she shrewdly challenged.  I didn't respond, but my silence confirmed her suspicions.

 

"You want it all, don't you?  You think you might still have a shot at the presidency.  You know marrying me will help, but you won't give up other women; that woman," she said.  Despite her accusatory tone, her eyes reflected pain.

 

"I love you, Justin, stupid as that may seem, especially now.  I believe we can be good together; after all, our parents married for convenience, and they found love in their arrangements."

 

"I'll think about it, Cynthia, and I do value your support and your parents'," I conceded.

 

"If we do this, you have to forget that woman.  All the other women, that's all I ask."

 

I argued but she cut me off.  "I don't think it's too much to ask, do you?" she challenged, and I reluctantly conceded.

 

"I said I'd think about it.  Either way, I'm going to see Angelique, even if it's to tell her it's over," I said, and when she protested, I cut her off.  "I'm not asking for your permission," I announced and left her standing on the patio.  I'm not sure whether she told her father or mine, but my father confronted me later that day and forbade me from contacting Angelique.  "I'm a grown man, able to make my own decisions," I told him.

 

"Clearly, you're not," he retorted and then told me to think with my head and not my dick.  Tom, speaking as my attorney, supported his views about not seeing Angelique.  I walked out, but Tom followed.

 

"You must realize how dangerous it is for you to be seen with Angelique right now; not only for you but also for her.  We have to distance you from anything or anyone associated with Liaison."

 

"I want to see her; she deserves to hear from me."

 

"I've talked to her; she understands the situation.  I'll explain it again," he promised, and I relented.  He then told me about meeting Adam and his request that he recuse himself.

 

"Why the hell would you think he'd do that?" I asked incredulously.

 

"He owes us!" Tom spat.  "That fucking nobody needs to be taken down a peg or two, and I'm going to beat his ass in court," he ranted, and I must admit, unreasonable as I knew our request had been, I resented Adam for not complying.  That feeling increased when seeing him looking so calm and confident at my arraignment.

 

Our gaze locked only briefly, but I felt a rush of shame at finding myself in such a vulnerable position before him.  I thought I glimpsed compassion, but I looked away without acknowledging it.  When next our eyes met, he stared impassively.  I faced the cold and calculating prosecutor then, I realized.  Adam didn’t object to my release on bail, but battle lines had clearly been drawn.