She turns to me sharply. "Relax, boss. Leave me with my fond memories and I promise not to say anything."

We share a tense ride to work and I make a mental note to tell Sophie everything tonight when I return home. Now that she’s back and trusting in me to do the right thing, I won’t have something so inconsequential ruining our progress.

***

The day drags by at a snail’s pace as I anticipate my evening with Sophie. My brothers break up the afternoon by surprising me with lunch. Things at work have been so busy that I’ve been pushing off our weekly lunch date. Today they take no chances, bursting into my office with my assistant trailing behind them apologetically.

"They just barged in, sir," he says, looking troubled.

"It’s okay, David."

My assistant, David, is a bit of a nerdy and frail type, and I got the sense he’s overwhelmed in the presence of my brothers. But he’s the best assistant I’ve ever had so I won’t admonish him for the interruption.

"You’ve gotta eat," Pace says, holding up a bag of takeout from one of my favorite sushi restaurants. "And I need an update on what’s going on with sweet Sophie."

He had flown to Italy with me on a whim, so perhaps I did owe him an update. "Is there a spicy tuna roll in that bag?" I ask.

He nods and begins removing the containers of food.

I join him and Collins at the large marble table in the center of my office.

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"So?" Collins ask. "Was your impromptu trip to Italy wasted? Or did you get the girl?

"Sophie’s moved back in," I confirm.

"Fuck yeah." Pace’s wide smile lights up his entire face. He’s always worn his emotions directly on his sleeve. It’s both a blessing and curse. He’s a real estate developer, so his gregarious personality often helps him win over clients, but can be a hindrance when he’s negotiating big deals. All the cards are face up on the table with him. You can see every fleeting thought passing through his brain. 

"And Stella?" Collins asks.

My older brother has been riding me for years about divorcing her. Even though he’s only two years older, he’s always acted more like a father-figure to both me and Pace. "I signed the papers."

Pace jumps to his feet. "Holy fucking shit! We need some goddamn champagne up in this bitch."

"Sit the fuck down," I grumble, but am unable to hide the crooked smile lifting one corner of my mouth. "Yeah, yeah, I know. It’s about fucking time."

"I’m so fucking glad Sophie’s in your life," Collins says, helping himself to some of the pickled ginger on my plate. It's obvious he attributes her presence in my life to this change. And of course, he's right.

"We need to celebrate, bro. Seriously," Pace says.

"It’s not a horrible idea. A big bash to mark your freedom from the mega bitch," Collins says, chewing thoughtfully.

"Drop it, boys. I’ve signed the papers and sent them over to my lawyer. That’s celebration enough." No need to celebrate the anal raping my bank account is getting just to pay her to go away.

We eat in comfortable silence for several minutes. At the lull in conversation, my mind automatically wanders to Sophie and what will happen tonight when I get home.

"Marta’s single, right?" Pace asks, popping a piece of sushi into his mouth.

"Why do you ask?" I inquire, folding a napkin across my lap.

"She looks like she could use a good hard ride." He grins.

I set down my chopsticks. "Don’t fuck my employees. Why is that so hard for you to understand?"

He rolls his eyes. "Fuck, dude. You’re worse than a woman. First you curse me out for trying to get with Sophie’s sister Becca, and now you’re whining about me noticing Marta’s pert little ass."

"I’m not whining. I’m pointing out that surely your pickup skills extend beyond the couple of women in my inner circle that I’d prefer not get fucked over by you and then come crying to me. I know your history with women, asshole."

Collins chimes in, coming to my defense. "He’s right, dipshit, your track record is zero and what a hundred?"

"What the hell does that mean?" Pace momentarily stops chewing.

"You’ve had zero successful monogamous relationships and over a hundred sexual partners," Collins says.

Pace shrugs. "I stopped keeping track once I reached the triple digits."

"Listen, asshole. I told you. Marta works for me, so don’t fuck her. And in regards to Becca, she has cancer. She doesn’t need any additional stress in her life from someone who will hit it once and walk away. Not to mention she’s my girl’s sister. If you deflower her and then pull a disappearing act, I’d have to deal with the fallout."

He sulks, sinking deeper into his chair, but doesn’t retort.

Collins and I share a quick look of triumph.

I have no idea if Becca’s a virgin, like Sophie is, and it doesn’t matter. I don’t want Pace anywhere near her. His history with women is deplorable.

"Is Sophie still a virgin?" Pace asks.

"Not for long," I confirm.

Chapter Eight

Sophie

When Colton and Marta arrive home, I’m showered, dressed and waiting in the kitchen, just opening a bottle of white wine and setting out long-stemmed glasses. I frown looking down at the third glass on the island. Three’s a crowd.