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The only thing missing is Mara. Our girl went to her apartment today to pick up a couple things, but said she’d be back by dinner time. But where is she? Granted, she’s only been gone a few hours, but still. Where is that dang girl? I swear, she gets under my skin.

“Mar said she was on her way, right?” I ask my brother.

He nods, concentrating on his garlic bread. “Yeah. She should be here soon. We said five, and it’s still a few minutes before.”

I frown.

“Yeah, but Mara’s always early.”

Clay shrugs. “Drop it, Casper. She’ll get here when she gets here.”

I shut my mouth, but something’s off and my sixth sense has been triggered. Has something bad happened? A shiver crawls down my spine and I physically shudder a bit. I don’t like the feel of this.

But then, the front door opens and our girl steps in. She looks gorgeous as usual. Mara’s wearing a tight black dress that shows off her lush figure, and her chestnut hair cascades over her shoulders in a mass of curls.

I grin. “Hi sweetheart. How was your day? We missed you.”

She smiles as she approaches and drops her purse on the counter, but her eyes are curiously shuttered.

“It was fine,” she says lightly before pressing a kiss first to my cheek and then Clay’s. But again, something’s off. Her eyes won’t meet mine, and she’s not busying herself at the silverware drawer, getting utensils out in preparation for dinner.

Perhaps she didn’t sleep well last night. We have been keeping her up, after all, so I try to tamp down on my misgivings.

“Okay, the pasta’s done,” I announce. “You guys ready?”

Sure enough, the spaghetti, meatballs, and garlic bread are just the right temperature, and it’s time to eat. I pull out a chair at the table for Mara, while Clay brings over his contribution. The garlic bread looks almost fluorescent yellow from butter, but at least it smells good.

Once we’re all seated, I pop open some wine as we settle in for a hearty meal.

“How’s the food?” I ask our girl.

“It’s good,” Mara mumbles, looking down while chewing.

“And the wine?”


I sigh and put down my fork. I don’t want to come off as a disappointed dad, but this is getting ridiculous. “Is everything okay, sweetheart? You’re being awfully quiet.”

Mara starts shaking her head, but then she looks up at us and swallows. I’m taken aback at how pale her face is, and how even her curls seem to droop a bit.

“I need to ask you something, Clay and Casper, and I need you to be honest with me.”

I lean forward, noting the serious look on her face.

“Of course, honey. What is it?”

Clay shoots me a questioning look, but I merely give him an imperceptible shrug. Who knows what’s going on? As far as I know, everything’s fine.

Meanwhile, Mara takes a deep breath before looking us in the eye.

“Do you own Club Z?”

Immediately, my expression goes shuttered. “Why? What did you hear?”

Mara shakes her head with frustration, brown curls bouncing.

“Just tell me. Do you own the sex club we’ve been going to? Are they one of your entertainment holdings?”

Silence settles over the table. No one moves and you could hear a pin drop.

Clay and I look at each other, debating our next move. I wasn’t expecting Mara to ask this, but she is a lawyer after all. Digging until you get to the truth is part of her job, so I decide to be open and honest.

“Yes,” I say. “We own Club Z, along with several other entities in the entertainment industry.”

Mara’s eyes widen and she chokes a little.

“Why didn’t you tell me? You shouldn’t have kept that from me. People in relationships are open and honest with each other. Plus, I was taking off my clothes and having sex with you at those events!”

I inhale deeply.

“I know, but baby, you have to understand that this is something that we generally keep on the downlow. We don’t usually lead with the fact that we own a sex club because even though it’s legal, it’s not exactly kosher, if you understand what I’m saying.”

Mara nods, but now there are tears in her eyes.

“Yes, but that’s bullshit because of what we were doing!” she accuses. “Hell, I’m an escort too, so I’m not going to be offended by what you do for a living. Why weren’t you honest with me?”

I cringe because Mara has a point.

“Yes, but you mean something to us, baby girl. This is something real and we wanted to put our best foot forward.”

Her nostrils flare. That was the wrong thing to say, but at this point, I have no idea what the right thing is.

“Where is this coming from anyways?” Clay interjects with confusion. “Like Casper said, it’s not something we usually share with people, so how did you find out?”

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