Wagering On Wendy (A MFM Ménage Romance) (Playing For Love Book 4), страница 1
Wagering on Wendy (A MFM Menage Romance)
A Playing For Love Novel
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Wagering On Wendy
A Note from Tara
About Tara Crescent
Also by Tara Crescent
Text copyright © 2017 Tara Crescent
All Rights Reserved
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the author. The only exception is by a reviewer, who may quote short excerpts in a review.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
My editor Jim takes the comma-filled words that emerge from my keyboard and shapes it into a story worth reading. As always, my undying gratitude.
Additional thanks for Miranda’s laser-sharp eyes.
Cover Design by Eris Adderly, http://erisadderly.com/
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Boyfriend by the Hour
This steamy, romantic story contains a dominant hero who’s pretending to be an escort, and a sassy heroine who’s given up on real relationships.
I can’t believe I have the hots for an escort.
Cole Mitchell is ripped, bearded, sexy and dominant. When he moves next door to me, I find it impossible to resist sampling the wares.
But Cole’s not a one-woman kind of guy, and I won’t share.
She thinks I’m an escort. I’m not.
I thought I’d do anything to sleep with Sadie. Then I realized I want more. I want Sadie. Forever.
I’m not the escort she thinks I am.
Now, I just have to make sure she never finds out.
Wagering On Wendy
A steamy ménage. A secret baby.
I’m not looking for anything serious.
My ex-wife was a gold-digger who pretended to be knocked up so I’d be forced to marry her.
I’ve learned my lesson.
You want panty-melting, toe-curling sex? I’m your man.
But I’m not available for anything else.
I don’t do commitment. I don’t do relationships.
Then I met Wendy.
My life is falling apart.
I’ve been fired from my job. My new stepbrother has promised to ruin me. The only people on my side are Hudson and Asher.
I shouldn’t have given in to temptation. I shouldn’t have slept with them.
One night, they said. No promises. Just pleasure.
But the condom failed.
What am I supposed to do now?
I hate her father. I want to destroy her stepbrother.
I should stay away from Wendy, but I can’t. I think about her all the time.
Then my past comes back to haunt me and Wendy’s life is placed in danger.
We have to protect her.
She belongs to us.
Until we find out she’s pregnant.
Note: Wagering on Wendy is a full-length MFM ménage romance that is all about the woman. This story is about two damaged men who fall in love with the same woman. No cliffhangers.
For time and the world do not stand still. Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future.
John F. Kennedy
I’ve been a divorce lawyer for six years, and in that time, I’ve learned one thing. All men are lying, cheating bastards.
Okay, okay. Maybe not all men. Maybe I’m wrong, and maybe my profession has skewed my perception of the gender. Divorce lawyers don’t exactly see couples at their best, after all.
Take Howard and Sandi Lippman. They’ve been married twenty-five years, and in that time, Sandi raised three kids and was the perfect wife and mother. Then Howard Lippman decided to cheat on her with his twenty-two-year-old assistant. To add insult to injury, he hid the bulk of his assets so he wouldn’t have to pay his ex-wife her fair share in the divorce.
My goal today? Find the hidden money with the help of my uber-awesome hacker friend Miki. Demonstrate to the judge that Howard Lippman is a cheating son of a bitch, and my client Sandi deserves half of his assets. Win, and win big.
The streets of New York are almost quiet as I make my way to work. It’s a little after seven in the morning, and when I push open the frosted-glass door to the reception area of Johnson Nash Adams, I’m expecting to find the place to myself. To my surprise, Beverly, the assistant I share with two other lawyers, is already at work, as is Lara Greaves, who sits next door to me.
I raise my hand in greeting, and head to my office. Five minutes later, there’s a knock on my door and Lara sticks her head in. “Hey Wendy,” she says. “A few of us are going to Nerve tonight to celebrate Pam’s birthday. Do you want to join us? All of New York’s rich and famous will be there.”
“That’s not exactly a selling feature,” I reply dryly, thinking of Howard Lippman.
She rolls her eyes. “The drinks are excellent. Dante is the best mixologist in the city.”
I’m tempted. I’ve been working crazy hours in the last couple of months, and I’m overdue for a night out. Nerve is Manhattan’s newest lounge. It’s very exclusive, and I’m dying to find out what the buzz is about.
Unfortunately, there’s a large mound of paperwork in front of me that needs to be dealt with. “I can’t,” I tell Lara regretfully. “Jonathan Stern’s lawyer just dumped several boxes of evidence on me before Amber’s first hearing next week.”
She shakes her head but doesn’t try to argue. Lara’s trying to make partner too. We both know that work comes first; it always does, and it always will. “I’ll put you on the list,” she says. “Just in case you change your mind.”
Before I can reply, my cell phone rings. It’s Miki. “I have to take this,” I tell Lara, who nods in understanding and shuts the door. Once I’m alone, I pick up the call. “Tell me you have good news for me, Miki.”
We’re down to the wire here. Miki is a financial hacker, and she’s excellent at what she does, but Lippman’s systems have stymied her so far. She’s been working around the clock to find me proof of Lipp
“I hit paydirt, Wendy,” she announces, her voice layered with triumph. “Shell corporations, offshore bank accounts, you name it, I found it. I’m emailing you the details right now.”
“Yes.” I punch the air in delight. The idea of Lippman getting away with his ruse has been gnawing at me. Now, he won’t. “You,” I tell my friend, “are a fucking goddess. A rock star. This is fantastic.”
She laughs. “Sorry it took so long,” she says. “The company Lippman hired to hide his assets are pretty good at covering their tracks. In fact, I’m fairly sure that my snooping has been detected.”
That could be a problem. “How long do I have before Lippman moves the money?”
“A day or two,” she replies. “The trial’s this afternoon, isn’t it? You should be fine.” She hesitates for a brief moment, then continues. “This is the third guy in the last two months I’ve investigated for you. You’re making enemies, Wendy. Please be careful.”
Miki is rarely paranoid, and this behavior is unlike her. “Miki, this is my job. If I do it right, the ex-husbands want to punch me. It goes with the territory. I’m used to the hatred.”
This is my job, and I am used to the hatred, but this time, it’s a little more personal. Sandi reminds me of my mom. They’re the same age. Same honey brown hair, fading to gray, same caramel brown eyes. Same lousy taste in men.
Thirty years ago, my father swept my mother off her feet in a whirlwind affair, conveniently forgetting to mention to her that he was married. Then Janet Williams found out she was pregnant. When she told Paul Hancock, he’d given her ten thousand dollars and told her never to contact him again. Too poor to hire a lawyer and fight for child support, my mother raised me on her own, sacrificing everything to give me a stable, loving home.
I have no power to change the past. I can’t help my mother, but I can help Sandi. “Don’t worry,” I repeat. “I’ve got this.”
Judge Hadid takes one look at the evidence Miki has secured for me, says several stern things to Howard Lippman and his lawyer Katrina Schroeder about lying to the court, and rules in Sandi’s favor.
Outside the courtroom, Sandi hugs me tight. “Thank you, Wendy,” she says, her voice thick with gratitude. “I didn’t think you’d be able to pull this off, but I should have had more faith.”
I shrug, uncomfortable with her praise. “I’m just doing my job,” I tell her with a smile. I watch her leave, then turn on my phone to check my messages. There is no voicemail for me to deal with, but there’s a news alert that stops me dead in my tracks.
Paul Hancock has died.
I scan the article for details. My biological father has succumbed to cancer caused by the tumor growing in his brain. His wife Lillian died six years ago, but he’s survived by a son, Thorne Hancock.
My good mood evaporates. Paul Hancock never once acknowledged the daughter he conceived. I never met him, and now, I never will.
I don’t know how to process the complicated cocktail of emotions I’m feeling, but if I go home, I’ll just end up brooding all night. I dial Lara’s number. “You guys still going to Nerve?” I ask her when she answers. “I’m joining you.”
Dante had better mix up a mean drink. I’m going to need alcohol tonight.
Open your eyes, look within. Are you satisfied with the life you're living?
I’m staring at my schedule, wondering why on earth I’m supposed to be at Miguel’s new lounge on a Monday night, when my assistant Vivian knocks at my door. “You have a visitor,” she says, sounding harassed. “A Mr. Engels. I tried telling him you don’t see people without an appointment, but he wouldn’t leave.”
I go very still. The last I heard, Levi Engels was in jail, locked up for a year for his role in a scheme involving bad checks and forgery. He’s lucky it wasn’t longer. My childhood friend has become something of a career criminal, and we haven’t spoken to each other in almost fifteen years. Why is he here now?
I force a smile on my face. “Is he waiting in Reception?”
She nods. “Do you want to see him?”
Not really. Levi Engels is trouble with a capital T. I don’t have a good feeling about this at all. “Yes, please. Could you send him up?”
“Ash Doyle,” Levi’s voice booms out as he walks in. He looks around my office, taking in the expansive space, the large windows that overlook Manhattan and the modern art on my walls. “You’re a big shot now, aren’t you, buddy?”
There’s a trace of hostility in his voice. I ignore it. “Long time, Levi. How’ve you been?”
“I’d have been better had my lawyer been any good,” he says. “All lawyers are fucking thieves, am I right?”
Bullshit. His defense lawyer was a genius. It was Levi’s third arrest, and he should have been locked away for five years. I disregard Levi’s dig at my profession; he’s trying to get a rise out of me, and I refuse to let it work. “What can I do for you, Levi?”
His expression turns serious. “I need a place to stay for a month or two, Ash. Just until I’m back on my feet.” He swallows, sounding vulnerable. “I want to clean up my act, but it's hard when I'm surrounded by temptation.”
For years, I’ve been waiting for him to ask for help. “Of course,” I reply instantly. “I can arrange…”
“No.” His voice is vehement. “I don’t want your charity. Can I crash at your place? You have a spare bedroom, don’t you?”
Several. Bedrooms are not the problem. As much as I want to believe Levi’s change of heart, there’s always a chance that he’s going to get seduced by crime, by the promise of easy rewards. And I can’t be involved with that. I won’t risk everything I’ve worked for.
But Levi’s expression is hopeful, and I can’t turn him away. “Sure,” I reply. “My place isn’t far away. If you have some time now, I’ll get you a key, introduce you to the doorman and show you around.”
“Thanks, buddy,” he says fervently. “You want to grab a beer later?”
I look up at that, surprised. “Can you go to a bar when you’re on parole?”
He shrugs indifferently. “My parole officer’s an idiot. He’ll never find out.”
Trouble already. Thankfully, I have an excuse to avoid Levi tonight. “I can’t,” I reply. “A client just opened a lounge in SoHo. I promised him I’d drop by.”
Levi doesn’t look too put out by my refusal. “No worries,” he says. “Some other night, yeah?”
I’m pretty sure I’m going to regret this decision.
“Want to bet that we’re getting fired today?”
Nadja Breton, my second-in-command, and the only woman I truly trust, frowns at me. “That’s defeatist,” she chides. “We could be reading this situation wrong.”
The two of us are in the small conference room in our SoHo office. The floor-to-ceiling windows give us a great view of the city while shielding us from the noise and the chaos. We moved into these offices four years ago, and when I signed the lease, I knew I’d made it. I’d grown Fleming Architecture from a one-man operation to a prestigious design firm that had twenty-five employees and was projected to make fifty million dollars by the end of the year.
On the glass table in the center of the room, there’s a scale model of the skyscraper I’ve designed for Jack Price and Ian Schultz. It’s gorgeous, among the best work I’ve done. I eye it dispassionately. “Jack Price received box seats to the Knicks yesterday, courtesy of Kent and Associates. I’m not an idiot, Nadja. I can read the writing on the wall.”
“Doesn’t it bother you?”
“I’m not going to bribe Price for this job,” I say flatly. Fleming Architecture is extremely successful, with an abundance of happy clients. While I'd prefer not to lose this account, my intuition tells me the Clark Towers project is bad news.
There’s a lot more I could add. I could remi
Nadja, who’s been staring out of the window, takes a seat at the table. “Some of the newer architects are restless.”
I raise my eyebrow. “Why?”
“They think you should be bidding more aggressively for work. Branch out in new directions.”
This argument again. I’m willing to bet money that Colin Cartwright is behind the discontent. Colin believes I should have picked him over Nadja to be my second in command, and he’s doing everything in his power to undermine me. I’m getting tired of it. “We’re a boutique firm, Nadja. We only bid on projects that are a good fit for us.”
She sips at her coffee. “I’m not the one you need to convince,” she replies.
I make a mental note to have a conversation with Colin. If he doesn’t stop his bullshit, his days at Fleming Architecture are numbered.
Jack Price and Ian Schultz frown when they see the model of the skyscraper in the middle of the room. Nadja, noticing their discontented expressions, exchanges a look with me. Fired, she mouths.
She’s right. Ian Schultz looks up. “I have to be honest, Fleming,” he says bluntly. “This isn’t working.”
Translation: I didn’t bribe them. “You seemed perfectly happy with our design during the last meeting.”
Jack Price has the grace to flush. “Things change,” he mutters. “I’m sorry, Hudson. We’re going to have to let you go.”
The two of them watch me warily. If they’re waiting for me to react, I’m not going to give them the pleasure. “That’s your call to make, gentlemen.” My voice is pleasant, but underneath, I’m simmering with fury. “Have you decided on a replacement firm?”