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“Nope, I was just so excited to get out of the house, I jetted out the door early.”

“I’m shocked you even found my office.” Legislative personnel were spread all over the Empire State Plaza. My office was situated between the Senate and Assembly, but still wasn’t easy to find.

“I looked you up in Damon’s handy directory.”

“Oh.” I laugh and stand. “Should’ve thought of that.” I run my gaze over her maroon sweater and black dress pants. “You look pretty.”

“Thank you.” She runs her hands over her hips. “I don’t think I’ll ever recover from having Cora.”

I snort and toss a small plastic bag at her. “I’d actually consider having kids if I knew I’d look as good as you a few months later.”

“That’s sweet. Thank you.” She pokes through the bag and giggles. “Hope’s going to die of embarrassment.”

I grin at her. “We’re celebrating her engagement. It’s our obligation to give her dirty gifts.”

Mara snaps her giant black leather purse open and pulls out a small paddle. “My thoughts exactly.”

“Oh my God.” Uncontrollable laughter spills out of me. “She really might die of embarrassment. We’re the worst.”

“What?” She raises her eyebrows in an innocent way, in complete contrast to her teasing smile. “Rock seems like a man with a firm hand. It probably needs a break.”

I drop into my chair and laugh until tears run down my cheeks. “You bitch. Now I have to go fix my makeup.”

I gather all my stuff and we head downstairs where I stop to reapply some eye-makeup.

“Hoping to see someone?” Mara asks, wiggling her eyebrows.

“You never know.” I glance over at her. “Why?”

“Come on. Every time you see, which one is he, Z, right? Your panties hit the floor with a thud.”

“A thud, huh?”

“I was trying to be dainty.”

“You can’t be dainty when you’re discussing someone’s panties hitting the floor.”

“A-ha!” She points one perfectly manicured fingernail in my direction. “See, you don’t deny it.”

I close my eyes and wait until I stop shaking with laughter before continuing to run the mascara brush over my lashes. “I’m going to end up with smudges all over the place if you keep that up.”

She sets a blinding hot-pink gift bag on the counter next to us and pulls out a few sheets of tissue paper. “Look at you, all prepared.”

“Nothing but the best for our girl.” She squeezes her hands together under her chin. “I’m really happy for her.”

“Me too.” I may not be the marrying kind, but Hope is and after all she’s been through, I’m happy she found someone who treats her so well.

Mara wraps up the few gifts—all sex related—while I finish my makeup.

“Are we walking or driving?” she asks.

I glance down at my heels. “Let’s drive. I don’t want to have to walk to the parking garage later by myself.”

She elbows me in the side. “Oh, I’m sure a hunky biker or two will be more than happy to escort you to your vehicle.”

True. Rock’s protectiveness extends to Hope’s friends. Not to mention, if Z shows up, he’d never let me wander the streets of Empire by myself.

“Even so, it’s early, so we should be able to find parking on Hamilton Street.”

“If you’re drinking, you can stay at our place again.”

I glance over. “Are you sure about that?”

“Damon finds you extremely entertaining.”

“Oh, I bet he does.” I snicker and she whaps me with her purse. “Ow, what are you carrying in there, bricks?”

“Evening, Lilly. Headed home?” Someone calls out.

I barely hold back my groan of annoyance. Shane Kelly, one of the legislators I technically work for leers at me from the Security Guard’s station. “Evening, Assemblyman, Kelley.” I nod and force a polite smile. His reptilian gaze oozes over my body, then slides to Mara. She stiffens her spine and marches right up to him.

“Assemblyman, Kelley. Mara Oak. I’ve heard so much about you from my husband.”

Damon’s reputation as a tough judge who doesn’t sweep high-profile cases under the rug has ruffled many feathers. A few legislators who’ve been caught drinking and driving haven’t gotten the usual special treatment they received before Damon took the bench. Something that after working with these jackasses for so long gives me endless pleasure.

“Good to meet you, Mrs. Oak.”

“Well, we’re late. Good evening.” Mara loops her arm through mine and tugs me down the hallway to the elevator leading down to the garage. “Goodness, he’s creepy.”

“He wields a lot of power around here though. Been in office since before I was born, probably.”

She snort-giggles. “Probably.” She lowers her voice. “Don’t say anything, but Damon’s thinking of running for Gold’s seat if he runs for Senate.”

“Good for him. Although, that’s too bad because I’ve heard good things about him down at the City Court.”

“Nothing’s set in stone. Now, hurry up. I want to get there before Hope.”

“Hope’s never on time. I’m sure we’ll be there long before her.”

She taps her temple and rolls her eyes. “Right, what was I thinking?”

Zero

“So, uh, what time are you going downtown to pick up your girl?” My question didn’t come out as casually as I intended and Rock raises an eyebrow at me.

“Around ten-thirty.” He casts a look Sparky’s way. “If we ever finish up here.”

We rode down into the commercial area of Empire to pick up some supplies for Sparky’s plants. By the way our stoner brother’s running around the small hydroponics shop tossing stuff into a cart as he goes, it looks like we should’ve brought a truck.

“Boss! Boss, these are great!” Sparky’s bloodshot eyes shift right and left. “The to-ma-toes will benefit from an additional light source.”

Rock smothers a laugh with one leather-gloved hand. “Whatever you need, brother. Should we call Rav and ask him to bring the van?”

Sparky glances down at the pile of equipment scattered around his feet. “That’s probably best.”

The owner of the shop knows us well. We drop a fair amount of cash here on a regular basis, so he’s not concerned or surprised by Sparky’s antics.

An hour later, Ravage pulls the van into the parking lot and Sparky decides he’s finally finished. Rock hands over a wad of cash to cover everything and the owner helps us load our goods into the van.

“You solid, brother?” I ask Sparky. We’ve been away from the clubhouse for a good three hours now. Can’t remember the last time he set down the bong this long.

Sure enough, he twitches and glances at his bike. “Ready to head home.”

“All right.” Rock lightly punches Sparky’s shoulder. “Go easy. The plants aren’t going anywhere.”

“I got you, boss.” Sparky grins his loveably doofy smile and holds out his fist. “Shiny side up, brother.” He taps Rock’s fist, then mine, and finally Stash’s before straddling his bike.

“Buddha help me,” Rock mutters.

Wrath pounces on us at the clubhouse. Twitchy, I suppose, since Trinity went out to celebrate with the girls. “How long does it take to buy lights?” he grumbles.

“Bro, you have no idea. We’ve got high output energy efficient lights, spectra lights, LED lights, full spectrum lights. Not to mention, some bucket system hydroponic thing he wants to try out—”

“You’ll thank me later, Zero!” Sparky shouts as he bounds down the stairs.

Wrath shakes with laughter. “Not sorry I missed that. At all.”

“You’re going next time,” Rock says from behind me. “Your cast will be off by then.”

“What for? If anyone should go, it’s Teller. He’s the money guy.”

“Good call,” Rock says. “Remind me next time.


I follow Rock into the War Room with Wrath right behind me.

Rock glances over his shoulder. “Why do I have two shadows?”

“When are you heading downtown?” Wrath asks.

“You too?” Rock grumbles.

Wrath—the dick—smirks at me. “Aw, did you already bugging Prez about tagging along?”

“Shut up.”

“Ten-thirty unless she or Trin text earlier.”

“Cool.” I tap my fingers against the table as if I don’t care one way or another. “I’ll ride with you.”

“Me too,” Wrath adds. “Trin will drive me back.”

“You hope so.” I can’t help but mess with Wrath. He and Trinity need to get their shit together.

Rock runs his hands through his hair and glares at both of us.

“What?” A sly smile spreads over my face and I wink at Wrath. “If you need to pull over and be “alone” with your girl on the way home, I promise not to peek.”

Wrath busts out laughing. “Nah, twenty bucks says Hope gets hammered off half a margarita and Rock has to carry her upstairs.”

“You’re not hoping to get a ride with Lilly?” Rock asks, ignoring Wrath’s bet.

“No, he wants to give her a ride, Prez.” Wrath snickers at his joke. “On his—”

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