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

                                              

I'm — Lisa See, Peony In Loverag

"You look like someone ran over your dog," Tom remarks as he slides into the seat across from me.

 

"Have you seen this morning's paper?"  I demand.

 

"I have. The question is, why do you care? Other than the fact that he's come out of this whole thing looking like a goddamned hero?"

"Let's order," I say, not wanting to discuss Adam Thorne. I'm sick to death of thinking, talking, and reading about him. Since our altercation at Angelique’s, much like Tom, I've blamed him for my situation. The rational part of me disagrees. I know my actions led me down the path of destruction and that Adam was just doing his job. Being reasonable, however, doesn’t ease my resentment, especially not today.

 

While my bitterness is due almost entirely to my feelings for Angelique, the reason for Tom’s is two-fold. Primarily, it’s because his ego has taken a battering by the media's legal pundits. They've concluded that my deadlocked verdict is due to me taking the stand and has very little to do with Tom. They unanimously agreed that Adam bested him both strategically and in his courtroom performance. Tom strongly disagrees, insisting 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. He believes Adam owed us because of our friendship at Harvard. His claim is as unwarranted as my resentment. Adam owes us nothing. Our friendship had been firmly in the past when the Cordi case broke, and truthfully, we hadn't ever considered him a long-term friend.  Neither Tom nor I had any intention or made any effort to continue our association after graduation. 

 

Adam and I met on registration day. It didn't take long after starting our first conversation for me to realize that he's extraordinarily bright. I also quickly learned that he possesses more determination than almost anyone I know—my father being the notable exception. And, after getting to know him, I decided that Adam isn’t aloof like most of our law class thought—he’s self-contained. He didn't shun anyone, but he didn't show the need to accumulate friends like most students on campus. He, Tom, and I shared classes, lived in the same building, spent a ton of time together, yet I can't recall Adam actively seeking out our company. Or anyone else's for that matter; other than his family and a couple of childhood friends, he seemed perfectly content in his own company.
 

I introduced Adam and Tom, whose family and mine are part of the same social set. We attended the same schools, had friends in common, so our friendship was inevitable. Tom is, in fact, my closest friend. Socially, he and I had little in common with Adam, but, given the number of things we shared at Harvard, it made sense that we'd become friends while there.

 

For me, studying law had been a stepping-stone for advancing my political career. Given our long friendship and the fact that his maternal grandfather was a partner in a law firm, it made sense that Tom would follow the same path. To this day, however, I have no idea why Adam chose law. All he ever said 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 in private practice, but Adam wouldn’t be swayed from becoming a prosecutor.

 

We met Adam's family when they visited campus; his adoptive family, as we later learned they are. Lke Adam, they seemed decent. The Thorne’s, however, 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 in by Adam’s sister, Cait's, looks. Her disability didn't deter him. He pursued her, and they started dating casually.  Both Tom and I were shocked at Adam’s reaction when he found out. "Fucking stay away from my sister!" he threatened, practically vibrating with anger as he pinned Tom against a wall. Adam and I knew how Tom treated women, so I understood his aggravation. Still, I was shocked by the level of Adam’s aggression.

 

"Hey, I really like her," Tom tried to placate him, but Adam tightened his grip on Tom's throat, making it almost impossible for him to breathe.

 

"I don't give a shit! You're not treating my sister like some easy lay," he said.

 

I tried to intervene, but Adam turned on me.  "You knew, and you didn't tell me?" he accused.

 

"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. Mentally I acknowledged that I considered Tom and myself as 'us' and Adam as one of 'them', a distinction my father schooled me to understand at an early age. We are the rich and influential, the ones best suited to run major corporations and the country—the world if you choose to believe everything my father says. Being part of we makes me eminently suitable for the highest office in the land. They are the people I'd need to convince to vote me into office. My father viewed my friendship with Adam as proof of my ability to win 'them' over. 

 

Tom managed to convince Adam that he hadn't slept with Cait and swore he'd treat her with respect. Adam released him with a final warning. "My sister's nothing like the girls you mess around with. If you get up to your usual shit 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 I believed Adam meant every word. And, despite his bravado, Tom thought so too. He and Cait stopped dating soon after. He claimed the decision had been mutual, but I wondered just how much Adam's threat had influenced the outcome. I was relieved that things between the three of us could return to normal.

 

They appeared to, but looking back, I realize that incident had been the defining point of our friendship. We'd drawn an invisible line in the sand with Tom and me on one side and Adam on the other. No one acknowledged the divide; we continued as friends, doing the things college students do. Parties and women featured heavily in our extra-curricular activities, but Adam rarely participated—for him, studies took precedence.

 

We were all ambitious but, free of any pressure from his family, Tom was more relaxed about his academic achievements than Adam and me. My father's expectations kept me focused. I'm not sure what drove Adam because, from what I could tell, his parents would be happy as long as he did his best. Whatever compelled him, 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. 

 

One of the few occasions we partied together was on graduation night.  Adam let loose that night like the rest of us, and the next day, we parted company in high spirits, still friends. Neither Tom nor I chose to contact Adam after, and he didn’t reach out to us. I didn't give it much thought at the time. 'It is, what it is,' would probably have summed up my attitude. I did, however, ponder it throughout the trial and after.  I concluded that I didn't lose contact with Adam because I'd forgotten about him. There was little chance of that because, since joining the DA's department, he’s attracted nearly as much media attention as I do. The ugly truth is that I chose to discard 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 replied to my reminder of how smart and tenacious Adam is. The first time either of us had contacted Adam since leaving Harvard was when Tom arranged the meeting to ask Adam to recuse himself. Tom's reaction to his refusal had been scathing. He swore to 'whip his ass in court.' O the other hand, even before that meeting, I'd held no illusions that Adam would consider relationships—not when prosecuting me, or any case, for that matter.

My father and Tom strategized for hours—only 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, of course.  Most of what he said is unprintable, but he made his opinion of my stupidity for allowing some 'strumpet' to get under my skin crystal clear.

 

"She's 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 goddamned 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. Although less vocal, Tom shared his opinion. He'd always thought what he termed my obsession with Angelique unhealthy.  "You're treating her like your mistress, not a paid escort," he'd frequently warned.

 

He failed to see that Angelique isn't like the other girls at Liaison. He doesn't know and would never understand how inexperienced she was when we met or how unspoiled she remains. He wanted her too; that had been patently clear. Not in the same way I did, but Tom definitely lusted after Angelique. He 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 shared a woman a couple of times. But we’d been younger, and I'd seen no reason to turn down a willing and consensual female. Angelique is 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 that agreement with Joseph.

 

Joseph Cordi was a political supporter of my father. The Cordis had a shady history, but none of the allegations against them were proven. And, as my father rightly pointed out at the time, many respected and influential families have successfully survived a questionable past.  "The trick is to ensure nothing can ever be substantiated," he'd said.

 

So, when Joseph expressed interest in forging a relationship with me, 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. I was shocked when learning the truth about Liaison, naturally, but not for long. Prostitution is the oldest profession, after all, and I'm hardly a prude. I did, however, express concern about the illegalities to Joseph, who promised to phase it out.

 

I avoided any sexual activity at the club 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. Meeting Angelique changed everything. 

 

I first became aware of her one evening when 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," Joseph said. 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 expected sexual overtness. Instead, her dance was a mix of classical movements that 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 the dance ended. Angelique rose from her final pose, looking vulnerable and unsure. And then, with still no reaction from her audience, she 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 remained seated, seemingly unmoved, but I noticed the glint in his eyes. Later, when I questioned him, I’d been disappointed and intrigued to learn that she wouldn't be available as an escort. "Yet," Joseph added cryptically but refused to elaborate.

 

I attended every one of Angelique's performances for weeks before I succumbed 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 explained.

 

"A drink, nothing more," I reasoned. I expected rejection but was pleasantly surprised when Angelique joined Tom and me at our table. She proved to be more than physically 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 grasped her hand to reassure her, and I was still clasping it when Joseph appeared. Noticing our joined hands, he made some remark, inferring that she belonged to him. Angelique, clearly offended, left.

 

"You want her," Joseph stated matter-of-factly.

 

"I'm sure most men do. She's stunning, but I believe she's not available," I answered curtly.

 

"Angelique will come around to my way of thinking," he replied confidently.  "And when she does, you and I may come to a mutually satisfactory arrangement, Justin."

 

I chose not to respond, and the subject became moot because she left Liaison shortly after. 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 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 we met. The fact is, I still want Angelique, even now, despite her being out of my reach.

 

My body still stirs at the memory of the night O'Flaherty led her into my private room. Her eyes, the color of amber, had been fearful as they roved her surroundings. She'd bitten her full bottom lip nervously; the unconscious action increased my arousal.  It had been hard to miss her soft gasp when her eyes landed on me. I'd dismissed O'Flaherty with a cursory flick of the hand 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'd declined, requesting a club soda instead.  Her had hand trembled as she reached for the drink.

 

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

 

"Why do you do this"? She'd shocked me with her directness.

 

"Why do I do what?  Come here, or pay for your services?" I'd tried to buy time, but she'd simply nodded and waited for a response. Something in her manner had compelled me to be truthful. I'd explained that I had a position to uphold.  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 commit to, suits me. Until I have to settle down," I'd admitted.

 

She'd asked how many women I'd paid. I'd 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'd been appalled and said she hadn't. She'd 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 refused to elaborate again and asked about my political life instead. I'd kept her entertained with anecdotes until she seemed relaxed.

 

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

 

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

 

I stopped seeing Natasha and couldn't get my fill of Angelique. I knew she'd never wholly accept her situation, but she appeared to come to terms with her role as a paid escort. Even at that early stage, I was developing feelings I hadn't expected or wanted. I couldn't determine precisely what they were or why I felt differently about Angelique, but when those feelings became too confused or overwhelming, I'd be dismissive and leave abruptly after having had sex. I knew, of course, how my behavior made her feel, yet I continued. On occasion, I even stooped 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 felt the same. I should have known that Joseph couldn't be trusted, but still, I was shocked when he reneged on his promise to have Angelique see me exclusively. He didn’t bother informing me of his change of mind. I found out when I arranged to meet up with  Angelique and, afterward, she fell into an awkward silence. "What is it?" I demanded. 

 

Her voice caught as she haltingly explained 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 that I wasn't bothered. But, I became rough and sexually demanding 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 suggested approaching Joseph to arrange a liaison with Angelique. I reminded him that there were other escorts who'd better meet his needs. I tried to remain calm during our exchange, but 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 snidely 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'd found 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 warned. 

 

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

 

"Shut your fucking mouth," I cut him off, 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 smug face. He was smart enough not to mention my relationship with her again until after my arrest.

 

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

 

"Nothing," I answered tersely, but she’d noticed Angelique. "Do you know her?" she demanded. "I denied knowing her, of course, but denying Angelique troubled me.

 

Days later, I informed Joseph that I wanted to buy Angelique’s exclusive services. His smirk led me to believe he’d deliberately granted me a taste, knowing that once I'd 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 by suggesting a reasonable sum and a business partnership as part of the deal. I saw through his motives. The money didn't matter; the real value to him was a relationship with me on his terms. 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 only cursorily. And, after days of discussions during which Joseph repeatedly reminded me that he could earn a lot more by hiring Angelique out to others, I signed the damned agreement.

 

I attended one Fidelity management meeting and, having satisfied myself about the general manager's competency, handed everything over to my accountants. The agreement gave me everything I desired. I had Angelique to myself, at my beck and call, really, while still pursuing my political and social life. Things with Angelique were uncomplicated. She never uttered a word of complaint about seeing me out with other women, but I knew it must've rankled, if not hurt, her. I rationalized my behavior as being necessary for maintaining my image as the eligible, man-about-town senator. It also deflected pressure from my father for me to settle down and marry the right woman. In his view, that woman is Cynthia Buchanan, daughter of his life-long friend. The Buchanan family's political history is almost as impressive as ours. In our fathers' eyes, marriage between Cynthia and me 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 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 that, 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 our families. Maybe I was searching for someone suitable who could make me feel more than mere affection. I really don't know.

 

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. We met to discuss the matter, and I can truthfully say I'd never seen him that angry before. He remonstrated with me, not for paying for sex, but for being stupid enough to get caught. 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. 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 pressed. "She's promised not to speak to anyone about you."

 

"I could have told you that," I'd snapped, annoyed that he’d think Angelique capable of indiscretion.

 

At that stage, we were hoping Joseph’s assurances about security would hold up and that rumors of my involvement would eventually fizzle out. I'd be able to see Angelique again, but things didn't pan out that way. News reports hinted at the uncovering 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 discovered.

 

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 fronted the media with Adam. 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. I did, however, deny knowledge of the company's ownership of Liaison and several other nightclubs. I seethed 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, and so it came as no surprise when I was charged with several prostitution-related crimes. I suffered the humiliation of having to hand over my possessions, including my belt, before being escorted to a cell.

 

That shame was surpassed when, released on bail, I had to face my parents. My father was practically apoplectic as he ranted about my deplorable stupidity and the dishonor I'd brought to 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 and anything 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 mitigate the damage to my reputation. I was astounded by and sincerely grateful for the Buchanans’ support. I wouldn't have blamed them, Cynthia especially, 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 argue because I could see the 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 said 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 future is understood. It's always been. 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.

 

"Are you saying you don't want this, that you have no intention of marrying me? Are you prepared to sacrifice your ambitions?" she challenged. My silence confirming 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."  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 appeased.

 

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

 

I objected, 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." She protested, but I cut her off. "I'm not asking for permission," I announced and left Cynthia 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 sniped 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.  You need to distance yourself 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.

 

I was incredulous. 'Why the hell would you think he'd do that?" I demanded.

 

"He owes us!" Tom spat. "That fucking nobody needs to be taken down a peg or two, and I'm going to whip 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 composed and confident at my arraignment.

 

Our gazes locked only briefly, and I admit to feeling a rush of shame at finding myself in such a vulnerable position. I imagined a fleeting glimpse of compassion, but I looked away without acknowledging him. When next our eyes met, he stared back 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. 

 

 

 

 

 

If Only