Some Like It Scandalous – Calling His Best Friend on His Crazy
Richard circled the billiard’s table, eyeing potential shots. “You’re one crazy son of a bitch, Armand. What did you think she was going to do? See you again and beg you to take her back?”
Armand said nothing; he stared at the green felt table as though it might reveal the answer.
“Armand, seriously?” His best friend looked up from his shot. “You didn’t.”
The problem with Richard lay in how well he knew Armand. “I didn’t plan on groveling on bended knee.” But yes, I thought she would be more…more her…
She’d refused to drink out of the bottle, then ignored the glass he’d poured for her.
The attorney angled his hand against the edge of the table, balancing the cue stick between the thumb and forefinger. He snapped the stick forward and it tapped the cue ball, sending it careening after the blue stripe and sinking it. “You’re an idiot.”
“Helpful.” Armand sighed. His body hummed at the memory of her perfume, sweet and exotic. She’d rarely worn any when they lived together, but her shampoo—it had smelled of citrus and orchids, just like she did today.
“Look, I can do a lot, but the fact you even thought she would be happy to see you based on a summons to appear or lose her funding? Where did your diplomacy go?” Richard circled the table and cleared a second ball from the table.
“It’s been ten years. I thought—hoped—her temper might have cooled.” Ten years to regret leaving him—to regret never calling. When Richard sank a third shot, Armand set the pool cue aside and walked over to the bar. He needed something a lot stronger than water. From the moment she walked into his office, his response swamped his good sense and judgment. He’d wanted to run his fingers through her hair.
She was beautiful—heart-wrenchingly beautiful—but too pale. She’d squinted, as if her head bothered her, and for just the barest of seconds he glimpsed an unsteady step, a waver in her professional façade. He’d caught her arm—he just wanted to help—but she jerked away as if he’d hit her.
And the anger had flared in her eyes, a fiery beast if ever there was one. God, but the woman possessed a temper. Why the hell did he arrange to spend the rest of the week with her? She’d clearly wanted to be anywhere except his office. And the last thing I need is to spend it with her. But he’d wanted to know if she’d gotten over them—over him. Clearly, she had. So why hang on to something that never had a chance in the first place?
He poured in three fingers of brandy and tossed the whole thing back. The liquid heat burned through his system, churning his already agitated gut.
“Call Nikole. Get laid. You’ll feel better.”
“The wisdom of the ancients there, my friend.” Armand snorted, ignoring the curl of disgust at the very idea. “Nikole wants a marriage proposal and has informed me that if I wish to enjoy time with her, I must be prepared to put a ring on it.”
Turning to stare at his friend, he couldn’t help his own reluctant smile. “Yes, exactly so.” He poured another drink. “And Nikole is not the one I want.”
“I know.” The attorney sobered and finally missed a shot. He joined Armand at the bar and poured his own drink. “So, give yourself a few weeks and pick out another model. You like them, they’re easy and you can forget today.”
“I’m spending the rest of the week with Anna.” He waited for Richard’s reaction, and the man didn’t disappoint.
He choked, sputtering on the brandy, and swung his gaze up to stare at him. “Why?”
“She will be administrating Alyx’s scholarship fund and we’re folding it under the Dagmar Foundation. She’ll need to be brought up to speed.” Any of a dozen executives and administrative staff could handle it
“Bullshit.” Few people ever spoke to him like that—none while he grew up—and only two in his adulthood. Of those two, only Richard remained. “And when were you planning to tell me we were adding that program to the Dagmar Foundation?”
“Tonight. I need the paperwork pushed through by morning.” He looked at the amber liquid in the glass and swirled it around. She’d never liked wines or decanted liquors. She preferred beer—in the bottle—the cheaper the better. She liked seven-topping pizzas and sticky caramels mixed in with her popcorn. She’d always tasted of sin and sweetness when they kissed.
Richard snapped his fingers in Armand’s face. “Dude, you have it bad.”
Shaking off the alluring memories, he took another drink. It would be his last for the night. He would require all his wits about him in the morning if—when—she arrived for their session. “You haven’t called me dude in years.”
“You haven’t been this stupid over a woman in years.” The attorney leaned on the bar. “Tell me this—when did you decide to fold in that scholarship?”
Armand didn’t answer. The visceral blow he’d experienced when he saw her name in Alyx’s email lingered. He couldn’t believe it was really her—life and fate were not that cruel. Or so he always believed.
“When, Armand?” Richard repeated the question.
“After I found out Alyx hired her to be in charge of it.” He wasn’t proud of the admission. He’d spent an hour talking Alyx into placing her scholarship fund under the oversight of the Dagmar Foundation and then promised the newlywed he would handle all the details. The further he put Alyx out of Anna’s reach, the more in control he could exert.
“And the goal of this exercise?”
“To provide educational opportunities to underprivileged youth.” He drained the brandy and grabbed his pool cue, avoiding Richard’s knowing gaze and the truth. He could dance around both for some time. He lined up the shot and sank two balls. He completed two more shots before glancing up. “I want her back.”
“Okay.” He nodded slowly. “Then we need a plan.”
“I’ve got her attention—well, I commandeered her attention.” If she shows up—if she doesn’t just refuse to work with me altogether…
The attorney pulled out his phone. “So that’s step one, what’s the next step?”
Armand stared at the shot he lined up and blinked slowly.
“You have a next step—right?” Richard sighed.
No, he’d barely managed to push through that meeting with her today. Bringing her back tomorrow bought him some time.
“This isn’t you, Armand. You don’t twist in the wind and act all indecisive. What do you want to do next?”
He wanted to pin her against the wall and kiss her senseless. He wanted to lap up all that radiant passion she so easily shared with him. He wanted to find out what movies she liked and what book she curled up in bed with at night. He wanted…
Slamming the pool cue down on the table, he ignored Richard’s wince. “I want to know everything about her life. Where is she living? Is she living with someone?” The thought made him sick, but he pressed on. “What does she spend her free time on?”
Richard nodded, his thumbs moving swiftly as he typed on the miniature screen. “And while we dig up all this information?”
He cleared his schedule. Anna was his only talking point. “She hates the title.”
“That’s resentment, not hate.” Richard corrected. “But it’s an advantage. Use it.”
“To do what? Chase her away again? Let her box me up and put me squarely in the category she believes I belong?” He scowled. For someone so tempestuous and grounded in reality, she maintained a very black-and-white view of the world.
Thirteen years before, a busty little brunette burst into his introduction to business ethics class, interrupted the professor’s dry as hell lecture, and set the whole classroom laughing. With few seats to be had in the packed hall, he’d offered her his and she’d made him sit back down, while she squeezed into the narrow space next to him.
Their thighs touched for the entire class.
He never did hear what the professor droned on about with regard to compliance laws. He’d introduced himself, but she barely shook his hand before racing off. He didn’t even know what color her eyes were. A bribe at the register’s office earned him her schedule, and he’d waited for her outside her next class. The workload surprised him, but a week of putting himself in her path worked.
She’d said yes when he asked her out.
“Find all that out, but where does she jog in the morning? What coffee shop does she frequent? Where does she shop?” He drummed his fingers. “Her address is in the file, get that for me…”
“There’s a law against stalking.”
“Don’t be my attorney, Richard. Be my friend—help me.”
“Call her. Make up some excuse and get her on the phone.” Richard glanced at his watch. “It’s late, but it can’t hurt if you’re the last thing she thinks about before she goes to sleep.”
“Unless she hates me.”
“Oh, she’s probably angry, and like I said earlier, she resents the title. And the lie.” The droll response didn’t make him feel better. Richard held up his hands. “Look, you made a mistake and you paid for it—but at the end of the day, she was the one who walked.”
“She walked away because I’m a prince.” The bitter churn of that fact burned.
“You can’t change the fact that you’re a prince—or I guess you can, but it’s not like you can’t drop the titles altogether and walk away from your family.” Richard always knew what buttons to push. Armand was the head of his family, he couldn’t—and would never—abandon them.
“You are very good at poking holes, Richard, but do you have any suggestions?” He bit off the next words because his friend didn’t deserve the anger. Not this time. If anyone was at fault it was Armand himself.
“You can’t stop being a prince, Armand. So why bother?” Richard rolled his sleeves down one at a time and buttoned them at the cuffs. Their billiards game was over.
“What’s your point?” They’d already established that his position had an undesirable effect on Anna.
“My point, Your Highness.” Richard shrugged on his jacket. Disapproval rang in his words—he only used the appellation when Armand annoyed him. “You can’t stop being a prince, so why not use it to your advantage?”
Use it to my advantage how? She doesn’t like the damn title. He frowned.
Richard pulled his keys out of his pocket. “I’ll call you in the morning. I have some strings to go pull so you can stalk—court—your lady.”
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