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Misdirection: Book 1: Counterplay
Misdirection: Book 1: Counterplay
Misdirection: Book 1: Counterplay
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Misdirection: Book 1: Counterplay

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A secret exposed. A plan turned deadly. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. 

Arianne Douglas seems to have it all. A happy family. A fulfilling career. And an adoring husband. But when her husband's ex-wife, Millie, discovers her deepest secret—the truth could send Arianne's entire life crashing down around her. Millie has been on a twenty-seven-year mission to destroy her, and she's not above using Arianne's son, Nash, to do it.

Power. Money. Revenge. Sex. Murder.

Begin the saga that's hailed as Game of Thrones meets General Hospital.

mis•direction

[mis-di-rek-shuh n]

noun

1. a wrong or incorrect direction, guidance, or instruction.

2. the act or instance of misdirecting or diverting

Your move. 

About the series: Counterplay follows the Douglases, Adames, O'Malleys, and Caissys—four intertwined South Louisiana families, and their struggle for power, love, and revenge.

*This series is for 18+ for adult situations and language. 

LanguageEnglish
Release dateApr 17, 2017
ISBN9781386775898
Misdirection: Book 1: Counterplay
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    Misdirection - Elizabeth Burgess

    Prologue

    Arianne Douglas stood over her son. Her dead son. Murder weapon in hand. Blood and tears running down her face. Helpless. Powerless. Paralyzed. Recalling his first steps, first words. There would be no more firsts. Her child was dead. Startled by the buzzing of her cell phone next to his body, she answered but did not speak.

    Ari? her best friend said, You called but didn’t leave a message. Andrew texted me about the fight between Reece and Nash. I’m on my way to you now.

    Silence.

    Arianne?

    Lesley, I need you. Arianne sobbed into the phone. He’s dead, he’s dead… my baby… my son… Lesley, he’s dead… God, please no… I’m so sorry, baby… Her voice broke with every word.

    Arianne, I’m on my way. Are you still at the house? Lesley Huff remembered her recurring dream, pangs of regret pelting her heart. A storm was coming.

    Yes.

    Have you called the police? she asked, certain Arianne had not.

    No, only you, she cried. My… my son…

    Dammit Ari, call the police. Now.

    Ending the call, Lesley pressed the accelerator, speeding down West Esplanade Avenue. Arianne hadn’t said which son she had found. Thinking of her own two little girls, she choked back tears for her dearest friend.

    South Lake Drive was quiet except for Lake Pontchartrain’s choppy waters lapping over the levee rocks. Lesley wrapped one arm around her chest, her breathing stifled by the heavy Gulf wind. Sirens screeched in the distance and the night sky was filled with the blue and red glow of emergency vehicles. She was glad they were close. Parking next to Arianne’s Jeep, Lesley offered a silent prayer of thanks that Arianne’s thirteen-year-old son, Pike, was with his father and nowhere near this house tonight. So was it Nash? Or Reece. Both of their trucks were parked underneath the awning. Fearful, she opened the back door leading to a dark kitchen, and a bloody Arianne cradling the lifeless body of her son.


    "Holy Mary

    Mother of God,

    Pray for us sinners

    Now and at the hour of our death."

    Chapter 1

    Three weeks earlier…

    As Andrew Douglas rolled out of bed, Rachael sipped the vodka she’d poured thirty minutes before. Blinking back tears, she wished for a high to make her forget how far she’d fallen—sleeping with her ex-husband’s father. No amount of mind-altering pills could achieve that magic. They were a convenient pair. She knew what he brought to the table, and craved it as if it were air in her lungs, but all she had to offer him was herself. Andrew had always said everything had a price, and for Rachael, it was her sex. Having no intentions of being alone with her thoughts and vices, she threw back the drink and flung the sheet off, baring her breasts. Stay awhile?

    Andrew glanced over his shoulder at the young woman trying her hand at seduction and a small laugh escaped his lips. Maybe next time. Ari wants me to grill tonight, he said, buttoning his white dress shirt.

    He wasn’t the oldest man she’d ever been with, but he was the strangest. Rachael found Andrew’s public persona as Chief of Surgery at River City Medical Center was quite different from the man dressing in front of her now. In their six-month affair, he’d never kissed her on the lips or held her afterward. They undressed and dressed like a surgical procedure—meticulous and well-thought out.

    Room’s paid for, and you’re welcome to it. He rolled up his sleeves to fasten the silver cufflinks that had been a twenty-fifth-anniversary gift from his wife. Rachael’s eyes darted around the room. Andrew always provided excellent accommodations. This Northshore bed and breakfast overlooking Lake Pontchartrain in Slidell was no exception.

    Andrew, she whined, a perfect pout on her face. It would be better if you stayed. She slid her arms over his shoulders from behind and kissed his neck as she unbuttoned the top of his shirt.

    Spinning around, his mood snapped from hot to cold. You refer to me as Dr. Douglas, he fired back. I told you, I have to get home to Arianne. Your prescription is on the bedside table. Now, for God’s sake, put some clothes on.

    Dejected, Rachael turned toward the nightstand and spotted the small piece of paper next to a pill bottle. Immediately, she recalled why this tryst was taking place and started dressing.

    That script is for three months. See if you can stretch it longer this time. Arianne will take Gracie for a full month, starting tomorrow. Have her ready in the morning by eight, please. You are not to have contact with her per our agreement. Don’t pack anything. We have everything she needs, he said, snatching his keys.

    Tomorrow? I can’t talk to my daughter for an entire month? she squealed. She’s my child. I’ve never been away from her that long.

    She’s eighteen months old. You only have one-way conversations with her anyway. She’ll be fine, and so will you. Seems there’s plenty to keep you occupied, he said, a touch too defensively. Arianne will take better care of the child than anyone. Enjoy your free time, hon. Do you know how many young women would love to drop their kids with their grandparents for an entire month? Go out with girlfriends. Hell, go to the Caribbean. Graceanne will have a great time with her Mémère. And you, my dear, can return refreshed and revitalized. Andrew opened the hotel door, absolutely certain he’d convinced her.

    Reaching for the pills and vodka, Rachael forced a half smile and thought maybe he was right.


    Donning his sunglasses, Andrew rushed to his black Tundra. If the traffic cooperated, he’d be on time to his next appointment. With his truck in gear, he glanced at his phone. Two missed calls—both from his best friend, Gregory Adams. Clicking Gregory’s name and the send button, Andrew turned the radio down before speaking.

    Hey, Andy, Gregory said. Meetings go well today?

    Yeah. Real good. Headed to my last one with Bob right now.

    Thought you were supposed to save the best for last… not the worst, he joked.

    No doubt, buddy. Andrew excluded the real reason for the meeting and drinks with Bob O’Malley. You know he’s the single largest contributor to the Hope Foundation, other than Doc Caissy.

    Gregory laughed. Well, that’s because they’ve been in a forty-year competition to outdo each other.

    Got a point there. Hey, y’all still coming tonight, aren’t ya?

    I am. But I don’t—

    Hell, Andrew interrupted, don’t pull rank on me because you’re Chief Medical Officer. I’ll call Human Resources to get the girl’s number so I can invite her myself.

    Andrew…

    Come on and bring her. This would be the fourth time you’ve made excuses for the poor thing, and I know Ari is dying to meet her. What’s her name again?

    Tiffany, Gregory muttered. It wasn’t that he didn’t want his friends to meet his girlfriend. He did, but meeting his friends meant meeting Andrew’s wife, and Gregory wanted to delay that introduction as long as possible.

    It’s time, man. Gotta meet us before you take her to your mama, Andrew teased. You know Arianne is a good judge of whether or not your girlfriends meet Atlee Adams’ qualifications.

    Reluctantly, Gregory conceded, Okay… okay. We’ll be there. Tonight would be the night the love of his life met the other woman.

    "I just pulled up at Lochlann’s, but I’ll see you and Tiffany, at seven."

    Yeah, man… Seven.


    Lochlann’s Ole Ale House was bustling wall-to-wall with the happy hour masses. Grumbling to himself, Andrew wondered why the hell Bob had chosen a public place to conduct such private business.

    Andrew. Bob O’Malley stood from a corner booth and waved. Taller than Andrew, Bob towered over most people, and he was as crooked as his nose, which was rumored to have been broken by his first wife. Prone to violent and rage-filled outbursts, Bob had been dishonorably discharged from the Marines fifteen years ago when he broke his commanding officer’s jaw. He wasn’t Andrew’s favorite person, but he had money… and power… and today—a proposition that might be difficult to refuse.

    Hey, Bob. He extended his hand to the older man. Good to see you.

    You too, Andrew. How’s that gorgeous wife of yours? Easily, Bob fantasized about Arianne’s long legs wrapped around his body.

    Good. Thanks. Getting ready for the Hope Benefit next week.

    You know, I’ve always wondered how a roughneck like you managed to get two of the most beautiful women in South Louisiana to marry him.

    Stroke of good luck both times. How is Millie? he asked. Been a while since we talked.

    Hmph, Bob muttered. I’m still trying to convince her to marry me. Any pointers?

    Andrew paused to formulate an answer. Thinking about his ex-wife keeping company with such a deplorable person sent chills down his spine, but he knew any man would only hit Millie Douglas once. Since Bob sat before him now—it was safe to say, he never had. Hate to burst your bubble… but Mills will never marry again. After a long drink of beer, he leaned back, head against the booth. My mama had to convince her to marry me.

    Bob glared at Andrew Douglas and hatred boiled below the surface. Stealing Millie was only the tip of the iceberg. He flashed a strained smile and replied, Well, nevertheless, I will keep trying. Now, first off—put me down for ten thousand for the Hope Foundation.

    Doc Caissy gave twelve this year, Andrew lied.

    Dammit. Fifteen then. But my name needs to be mentioned before Jamie Caissy’s at the benefit.

    Andrew grinned, certain Arianne would be pleased with Bob’s contribution. Absolutely.

    Secondly… He narrowed his crystal blue eyes and lowered his voice. Our proposal.

    Yes? Andrew leaned in, excited to hear more about what his eldest son, Nash, had called the chance of a lifetime.

    As I said on the phone last week, discretion is imperative, Bob said.

    Of course.

    An old friend of mine from Missouri, Stephen Mullins, asked if I would be interested in investing and participating in a market… for organs. He’s Chief of Surgery at Jefferson City Medical and has masterminded a plan he calls the ‘Operation.’

    Andrew’s eyes widened. Well, that’s not what I expected. But please, continue.

    Say I have a patient with abdominal pain. You know our patients. They don’t ask us why we order labs or tests. Both of them laughed together at the blind trust most people had in their doctors. And based on his results, I deem it necessary to order an exploratory surgery. Well, I’ve already done a liver panel workup and established that his liver is healthy. I also know the real problem is gallstones. So, I extract the stones and what I need, poke around, and close. Document the biliary stone removal and send our liver piece on its way to wherever. Bob hesitated as Andrew took in the basic idea. What do you think?

    Shaking his head, he crossed both arms over his chest. There’s a shit-ton of problems that could go wrong. You know that, don’t you? Andrew said. As interested as he was, he still needed answers. Do we have specific surgery teams? What about security… funds? I don’t know… It sounds good, but shit… bringing in Rivers… I don’t know.

    It’s a chance, but the payday is huge. Stephen’s team of docs up in Jefferson City average from 200- to 300-thousand a month. Each. Pleased to see the younger man’s mouth drop, Bob knew Andrew’s greed would get them inside River City Medical Center. Of course, we wouldn’t start out with that much. Maybe fifty to a hundred thousand.

    Are you kidding, man? he said. That’s unfucking real. But still, what about everything else?

    No, Andrew, I’m not. Millie had warned him Andrew would be resistant, and she told him exactly how to counter his argument. "Take a day or two. Think about it. But Millie says she’d better get her white roses when you say yes and we start making money."

    White roses, huh? Andrew chuckled. He should have known his ex-wife would use every bit of information to her advantage. Well, you can tell Millie her roses are on their way.

    Does this mean?

    Andrew nodded.

    Bob raised his beer in celebration, their amber bottles clinking together. To our little ‘Operation.’

    Yeah… Andrew breathed, hoping for more success than his last botched business endeavor. To the ‘Operation.’

    Chapter 2

    H ey, sexy. Tiffany Comeaux greeted her boyfriend with a kiss, wearing skimpy gym shorts and a tank top. She hoped he noticed.

    Hey, yourself. Just get back from working out? Gregory asked as he closed the door to her Common Street apartment.

    Yeah, she said, releasing her light brown hair from its ponytail. Brutal yoga class today. Sometimes I wonder if it’s worth it. I’m sore for days after.

    Well… Gregory spun her around and smiled. You’re a hell of a lot more flexible in the bedroom.

    Totally worth the pain then, babe. She kissed him again, this time, slower and longer. Wait? Thought you had a business dinner tonight?

    Exhaling, he pushed his thoughts of Arianne to the back of his mind. It’s with friends. And I know it’s short notice but I… I’d like you to come.

    Are you sure? she said with a subtle smirk. Meeting Gregory’s friends was a huge deal. No stomach ache, emergency at the hospital, or burst pipe at your mom’s?

    Gregory rapidly nodded. I deserved that. Mama really did have a burst pipe, though. He chuckled, taking her hand. I’m sorry. It was wrong of me to ask you to meet my friends and then back out on it. Tonight, I really want you to go.

    Then you need to help me get dressed. She led him into the bedroom.

    Does that include helping you get undressed?

    You wish. Tiffany opened her closet door. Pick out something unpretentious and sexy. And then come talk to me while I’m in the shower.

    Okay, I’m right behind you. Gregory held up a pair of gray pants and a light pink spaghetti strap top, in hopes it would meet her criteria. What about this?

    Tiffany poked her head out from behind the shower curtain. Good choice, babe.

    I pulled the matching cardigan too. Might get chilly if we go out on the patio.

    You’re right. She closed the curtain and returned to her shower. Who’s coming tonight?

    Just the Huffs and the Douglases, he said, leaning on the marble vanity.

    The Huffs… as in Dr. Sylvia Huff? Doesn’t she have a wife who’s a nurse?

    Yeah. Lesley.

    Are you close with them like you are Dr. Douglas and his wife?

    Gregory placed Tiffany’s towel on the peg next to the shower. Other than Andrew, Sylvia is my closest friend.

    Yeah? I’ve only seen her once or twice. She seems standoffish, but I didn’t talk to her or anything so I could be wrong.

    He chuckled. Nah, you’re right. Sylvia doesn’t have much to say. Ever. But when she does, you better listen.

    Sounds a little like you, she said, turning off the shower. How long have y’all been friends?

    About fourteen years. And yeah, we’re a lot alike. Sylvia’s harder to get to know, though. Talk to her about your alma mater and you’re in.

    Did she graduate from LSU too? Tiffany wrapped the towel around her body and opened the curtain. Thanks for getting my towel.

    No, but Lesley did, and Sylvia’s developed a love for the Tigers.

    She planted a soft kiss on Gregory’s cheek. Smart lady. Do they have any kids?

    Twin girls. And Lesley stays at home with them.

    Twins? Really?

    Gregory stood taller and puffed his chest. Yeah, Stowe and Liene. I’m their godfather.

    I didn’t know you had godchildren. Tiffany grinned. I bet you’re so much fun.

    I’ve had lots of practice for sure. All four of Andrew’s kids too.

    Wow, six. Steam flooded into the bedroom as she opened the door. How long have you known him?

    Awhile. We knew of each other in high school. Andrew’s dad was a doctor in Mandeville and worked at Rivers. But when the four of us went to med school at River City University, that’s when we got to know each other.

    Who’s the four of us?

    My brother Trent and Andy’s ex-wife, Millie. They were two years behind us.

    You and Andrew have been best friends for a long time?

    Gregory lifted her chin. Try longer than you’ve been alive. It was hard to admit, but maybe he was looking forward to her meeting everyone. You know you’re making life tough on this old man, standing there, taunting me in next to nothing.

    Oh really? she asked, allowing the towel to fall. You might be older than me, but you are still… a man. A very hot… very handsome… and very turned-on… man. Tiffany bit her bottom lip and unzipped his pants. I don’t know if I can wait all night, and I know for sure you can’t. Am I right, Dr. Adams?

    I have amazing willpower. You’d be surprised. He swallowed hard as she pressed her body—warm and still wet from her shower—into him.

    Really? Tiffany knelt. So, if I stop, you’ll be okay?

    I think I would live… Tiff. His voice was ragged. But I really, really wish you wouldn’t… God…

    Don’t we have to be there soon? She gazed at him with willing eyes.

    Actually, now. Gregory hoped that wouldn’t deter his eager and beautiful girlfriend.

    She stood and kissed him hard, then lifted his shirt. Well, Doctor, I hope you work fast.


    Pike? Arianne shouted, walking into her South Lake Drive home on the northeastern side of Metairie. Dad should be here soon to take you to your friend’s house. Pike Douglas brushed dark hair from his face as he hopped down the stairs two at a time. Stop jumping stairs, son.

    Can’t you or Greg take me, Mom? Pike rested his head on the kitchen counter.

    Son, he didn’t mean to miss it.

    That’s what you said last time… and the time before that. He mumbled more to himself than anything.

    She cursed her husband under her breath, thankful her back was turned so Pike couldn’t see. Yet another time, Andrew had managed to hurt him with his absence. She had no doubt her husband loved their children, but sometimes she wondered if he loved himself more. Pike, Chief of Surgery is a big job with lots of responsibilities.

    Greg is in charge of the whole hospital, and he’s always there. Even if it’s just for a few minutes at the end of the game, Mama. He inhaled, and Arianne could tell Pike was trying not to cry. Reece is in med school. Nash is a resident, and they’ve both come to some of my baseball games. Don’t make excuses for him. He’s just an asshole.

    Pike. Arianne scolded, I know you’re upset, but you will show respect.

    Lowering his head, he whispered, Yes, ma’am, and stared at her with sad eyes, hurt again because of another broken promise.

    I know how you feel, son. I really do.

    Twenty-six years of marriage to Dr. Andrew Douglas Jr. had prepared Arianne for talks like this with her youngest son. She’d had the same discussions with their other three children for years. The truth was harsh and too much for any thirteen-year-old to handle. Andrew and Arianne’s relationship had been plagued with lies from day one. Never allowing herself to forget that he was married when she started seeing him, Arianne knew he wouldn’t be faithful for long. Twelve years into her marriage, she hadn’t been either—the proof standing before her now with those big, brown eyes that matched his biological father’s. Neither of the two men suspected Pike was Gregory’s child, and Arianne wasn’t telling. Fear and love kept that secret.

    Gripping Pike’s shoulders, she kissed the top of his head. Never doubt that Daddy loves you. I agree, he is a jerk sometimes. She forced a laugh. But he does love you. He wanted to take you today to apologize for missing your game. Maybe go to Arctic Shark and get ice cream like you used to? Arianne lied, relieved to see a grin on Pike’s face. Andrew’s truck pulled up outside. Is that one with all the candy bars still your favorite?

    Shark Attack? Yes, ma’am, he said, returning to his usual cheery disposition.

    Good. Now run upstairs and get your clothes. Don’t forget your toothbrush—you’ll need it after the Shark Attack.

    While Pike was lumbering up the stairs, she hurried outside to meet Andrew as he approached the side door.

    Hey beautiful, he said, leaning in for a kiss. Missed you today.

    Cut the crap, Andrew. I don’t know, and I don’t care where you were last night. But your child does. So, you best come up with a damn good excuse as to why you missed his game, Arianne fired off, on the verge of tears.

    I told you. Andrew lifted his hands. Soliciting contributions for your charity benefit, working late, charting, scheduling staff assignments.

    That might have worked when Pike was seven, but in case you haven’t noticed, he has good reasoning skills now. You don’t work twenty-four/seven, Andrew.

    Are you making an accusation? Because Ari, I’m not. Andrew’s arms wrapped around his wife and he kissed her cheek. Baby, I’m not. I love you. God, I love you. Only you.

    She searched his eyes—hazel with an amber rim—the same eyes she’d fallen in love with so many years before. Since then, he’d broken her heart, her trust, and their life together, but he was her husband. For better or worse, she loved him.

    I’m sorry. I don’t mean to accuse, Arianne apologized. Pike is upset. I was asleep when you got home last night, and you were gone before I woke up this morning. I’m crazy busy with the Hope Benefit.

    No, you’re right. There’s no excuse for missing his games, Andrew agreed, caressing her cheek.

    I told him you’d take him to Arctic Shark before you dropped him at his friend’s house, Arianne buried her head in his chest, aware of how much she missed him.

    He lifted her chin and brushed stray strands of black hair behind her ear. Sounds like a plan to me. And what about you, Mrs. Douglas? How can I make up the past few weeks to you? His kiss was slow and full of need. My God, you are the most beautiful woman in this world.

    Our son will be coming out soon. Let’s not scar him for life with a mental picture of his parents making out in the driveway.

    Agreed. But tonight. His eyes met hers and he kissed her again, this time taking her breath. Tonight is all about you.

    Mom? The sound of Pike’s voice caused them both to jump. Do you know where my navy St. Paschal’s hoodie is?

    I’m coming. In the dryer, I think, Arianne yelled, walking toward the back door.

    Andrew nodded. Oh, sweetheart, do we have enough food for one more? he asked as Arianne stepped into their house. Because Greg’s bringing the new girlfriend, the gal who’s getting her Master’s.

    Her mood shifted. A carefree night with friends just became a competition.

    Chapter 3

    The evening sun shining in the car window warmed Bob on his drive home from Lochlann’s in Slidell. Late February and early March had been unusually brisk and dry for South Louisiana, which had him slightly concerned for his crawfish farms outside Bayou Des Allemands, and even though his partner hadn’t contacted him, Bob made a mental note to call him over the weekend. He’d been trying to reach a more important person for the past hour—his eldest son. Living in Dallas, Sol couldn’t be as involved with the Operation as much as either of them would have liked, but his successful plastic surgery practice and a volatile marriage to Rivers’ head OB/GYN, Christine Caissy, made living out of state rather appealing. Deciding to try him again, Bob dialed the number and waited.

    Hey, Dad, sorry I couldn’t answer. I was on the phone with Sloane, Sol said, speaking of his seventeen-year-old daughter. How’d your meeting with Andrew go?

    He’s cautious, but that won’t be a problem. We’re in. We’re really in. Bob’s voice burst with excitement. I can’t believe it. After years of planning, this is finally a reality.

    You and Millie have put in a lot of hard work into making it happen, Sol added. Still a lot left to do, but getting in Rivers—that was our biggest hurdle.

    Despite being alone, Bob agreed with a nod. As much as I hate to admit it, Nash has really been an asset. Of course, I’d never tell him or Millie that, especially since it was her idea to bring him in.

    Watch those two, though. I’ve never trusted Millie. And anybody in Andrew’s circle—well, you know how I feel about him.

    I know, son. Me too. Seems like a lifetime we’ve been waiting for this. Andrew Douglas and that bastard, Jamie Caissy, have taken so much… so much from us, but our time is now. And Sol, you just don’t know Millie the way I do. He smiled as he thought of the woman who had been in his life longer than any other. Their beginning had started out rough, but she eventually found her way back to him. As she always would.

    I’m glad you’re so confident. But be careful, Sol warned. We all lie and cheat to get what we want. Some of us more so than others.

    Bob laughed. Sol, at thirty-seven, was practically his mirror image, in every way.

    Following in Bob’s footsteps, the boy had joined the Marines after college but proved to have better control of his temper than his father. "Yeah, you’re right. Speaking of, I’ll call our friend, the congressman soon to let him know we’ve started. I believe he’s already arranged for the purchase of a house in Mandeville."

    Good. Glad you’ll have him there, since I can’t be. May’s the earliest I’ll be able to break away from Dallas, and that’s out of necessity for Sloane’s graduation.

    Hey, I understand. Besides, having you in Texas gives us more contacts there. We’ll talk soon. Ending his call, Bob grumbled when he drove by a red Chevy Silverado parked in front of his house. He knew who owned that truck and was not looking forward to this conversation.


    Andrew Nash Douglas III stood tall and proud against his truck, clad in green surgery scrubs. Today, he was wearing wire-rimmed glasses. With his dark hair and hazel eyes, Nash resembled a young Andrew. Following in the Douglas tradition, he was in his first year of residency at Rivers. Driven and dashing like his father, he had his pick of women and never wanted for anything else either. Bob always thought Nash needed to be brought down a notch or two… or ten.

    Where’s Millie? Nash asked as he met Bob by the garage. I thought she was coming.

    Do you see her with me, Nash? he answered in his most caustic voice. Unlocking the door, the two men entered the house.

    I don’t know if she is inside. Don’t get an attitude with me. I just came over to see how it went with my dad.

    Good. We’re in at Rivers. Now, all we have to do is get Millie hired back and we’re good to go. You’re sure St. Tammany’s anesthesiologist has privileges at Rivers too, huh?

    Yeah, according to what I saw on the hospital mainframe, he did a surgery with my dad a few months back. But in my opinion, we need another anesthesiologist in New Orleans, Nash stated. "And your guy can stay at St. Tam."

    Oh… really? Bob shot back. Pray tell why do you, Mr. First Year Intern, think we need a second anesthesiologist?

    Why are you jumping down my throat, Bob? Jesus. I’m working with you, not against you.

    Nash sat on the couch and crossed his legs. I’m just trying to think of ways to fly under the radar. That’s all. Dr. what’s-his-name will need to do some non-Operation related anesthesia cases with us so people like Gregory don’t start questioning the types of surgeries he assists with.

    Pouring them a glass of Gentleman’s Jack, he replied, Don’t worry about Gregory. Your idea was excellent, and he’s got more than enough on his plate to keep him occupied.

    Thanks, Nash said, taking the drink. What did my dad say about Millie?

    He didn’t. I didn’t ask.

    Damn. We gotta have Millie involved. Dad can do general surgeries, and it’s good to have Christine to harvest eggs and shit, but we need Millie’s privileges restored at Rivers.

    Don’t you think I know that? Bob sneered. He was tired of this arrogant and smartass child telling him how to run his business. Nash’s skills were invaluable—especially his ability to hack into almost any computer—but presently, Bob could do without him. The Hope Benefit is a week from tonight, and my goal is for Millie and me to walk arm-in-arm on a red carpet they’ve laid down especially for us.

    He laughed. That’s a lofty goal. Won’t be a problem to convince Dad she should come back. But Gregory?

    I told you not to worry about him, Bob yelled, irritated with Nash acting as if he were the leader of their group. He knew a way to shut him up. Plan B is always available… if this doesn’t work out.

    I hate Plan B, Nash mumbled under his breath.

    You agreed to it, and I swear if you breathe a word to anyone… Bob glanced out the window when he heard Millie’s car turning in. "Especially to Millie… I will kill you, Nash."

    Shit… He held up his hands as if in surrender. I won’t, man. Nash hated Bob—eclipsed only by the hatred he had for his own family. His blood. The ones who had shunned him and sent him away. Those who preached tough love but offered none. If he had any success in this world, it wasn’t because of his parents, but because of the woman who entered Bob’s home now. His father’s ex-wife—Millicent Douglas. Their friendship had started thirteen years ago when a young Nash hitchhiked his way to Slidell, and she had become the one person he trusted with his life.

    Bob attempted to kiss Millie’s lips, but she turned her head so he got her cheek. Good to see you.

    Bobby… She twisted from his embrace and extended her arms to a Nash, who’d stood. I brought you some chili and cornbread for your meal at work tonight. It’s out in the car so don’t forget it on your way out.

    Thanks. You didn’t have to… Nash kissed her forehead, …but I’m glad you did.

    Well, I know you won’t eat until tomorrow if I don’t. She patted his chest. You tell that girlfriend of yours, I said she should start taking better care of you.

    Nobody will ever compare to you, Mills.

    Bob sipped his drink and made a sour face. When Nash was around Millie, Bob might as well be dead. He was her pride and joy. Her prodigy. And she was Nash’s unattainable angel, the one woman who would never return his feelings. Bob suspected Nash had been in love with her since he was a teenager, but Millie’s connection to Nash’s father kept his jealousy at bay. She’d never cross that line—even if she wanted to. Bob was sure of that.

    Do you have time to stay and visit?

    Wish I did, but I gotta be back in an hour. Nash went to the front door. Thanks for the drink, Bob. And Mills, thank you for my lunch.

    Anytime. Be careful. Millie returned to the couch.

    When Nash drove away, Bob relocated next to Millie and inconspicuously began to rub her arm, surprised she didn’t slap his hand away.

    How was your day?

    Long. Had back-to-back open-heart surgeries today. Pass me Nash’s drink.

    Bob reached for the glass and watched her down it. She was in the mood to get drunk tonight, and nothing pleased him more. Millie was always amazing in bed, but alcohol enhanced her ability to be free. No inhibitions. Quickly, he handed her his drink.

    You want me drunk? she asked, reclining against the couch, white-blond curls framing her face.

    I want you to stay with me tonight, yes. And if getting you drunk will do that, then I’m not protesting. He kissed Millie’s neck, up to her cheek, then her lips. You taste so good.

    It’s the Gentleman’s Jack. She licked her lips and closed her eyes. Was Nash here to find out how it went with Andrew?

    Bob huffed, Yep…

    What? She opened her eyes, certain he was pissed that she’d mentioned Andrew or Nash. She didn’t care.

    Can’t we go one evening without talking about the Douglas men? I can’t get away from them.

    Excuse me? I asked one question.

    Did I get any chili and cornbread? Did you cook for me? No. But after a hard day at work… you… you still cooked for Nash. I bet if he hadn’t been here, you’d driven all the way to Rivers to take him lunch.

    And you’d be right. He’s as precious to me as my own children. Maybe even more so because he has no one.

    He’s got a whole damn family, Bob screamed.

    She stood and carried both glasses to the kitchen. I don’t have to answer to you about my relationship with Nash.

    He’s in love with you.

    Slamming her hands on the counter, she returned an acrimonious smile. I’m not having this fight again. You are a paranoid, insecure, poor excuse for a man. And you need to know your place. This was an easy game with Bob—she always had the upper hand, and always got what she wanted. Millie knew he was serious about Nash and his feelings. She thought there might even be some truth to his accusations, but their relationship was none of Bob’s concern—ever.

    Apparently, he needed to be reminded of that. I came here for one reason, and one reason only, and if you can’t get your ass up and give me what I want, I can find someone else who will. So, what will it be, Bobby? Can you give me what I need?

    Yes… Millie, he whispered in a meek voice.

    Yes, what, O’Malley? she hissed.

    Yes, ma’am.

    Now, show me what you’re wearing underneath your pants, She sauntered towards him as he fumbled with the button on his jeans.

    Hurry the hell up. I don’t have all day.

    When he pulled his boxers down, he revealed an indiscreet bulge in a pair of lacy light blue panties.

    "You look absolutely ridiculous, and you can’t even

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