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White Lies
Author: Lisa Renee Jones

 


Chapter One


   Tiger

   There are those moments in life that are provocative in their very existences, that embed in our minds forever, and sometimes our very souls. They change us, mold us, maybe even save us. But some are darker, dangerous. If we allow them to, they control us. Seduce us. Quite possibly even destroy us.

   The moment I stepped into the mansion that is the centerpiece of the Reid Winter Vineyards and Winery wasn’t one of those moments. Nor were any of the moments I spent weaving through a crowd of suits and dresses cluttering the circle that is the grand foyer of the 1800s mansion, fancy tiles etched with vines beneath my feet. Nor the ones spent declining three different waiters offering me glasses of various wines from one of the most established vineyards in Sonoma, meant to entice me to buy their bottles and donate money to the charity hosting the gathering. Not even the instant that I spotted the stunning blonde in a snug black dress that hugged her many lush curves proved to be one of those moments, but I would call it a damn interesting one. The moment I decided the blonde silk of her long hair belonged in my hands and on my stomach was also a damn interesting one. And not because she’s fuckable. There are plenty of fuckable women in my life, a number of whom understand that I enjoy demands for pleasure, which I will definitely provide, and nothing more. This woman is too prim and proper to ever agree to such an arrangement, and yet, knowing this, as she and her heart-shaped backside disappear into the congestion of bodies, I find myself pursuing her, looking for more than an interesting moment. I want that provocative one.

   I follow her path formed by huddles of two, three, or more people, left and right, to clear a portion of the crowd, scanning to find my beauty standing several feet away, her back to me, with two men in blue suits in front of her. And while they might appear to blend with the rest of the suits in the room, they hold themselves like the parasites I meet too often in the courtroom, those who most often call themselves my opposing counsel. My blonde beauty folds her arms in front of her chest, her spine stiff, and if I read her right—and I read most people right—I am certain that she’s found trouble. But lucky for her, trouble doesn’t like me nearly as much as I like it.

   Closing the space between them and me, I near their little triangle just in time to hear her say, “Are we really doing this here and now?”

   “Yes, Ms. Winter,” one of the men replies. “We are.”

   “Actually,” I say, stepping to Ms. Winter’s side, her floral scent almost as sweet as the challenge of conquering her opponents that are now mine, “we are not doing this here or now.”

   All attention shifts to me, Ms. Winter giving me a sharp stare that I feel rather than see, my focus remaining on the men I want to leave, not the woman I want to make come. “And you would be who?” the suit directly in front of me demands.

   I size him up as barely out of his twenty-something diapers, without experience, the glint in his eye telling me he doesn’t realize that flaw, which makes him about as smooth as a six-dollar glass of wine everyone in this place would spit the fuck out. A point driven home by the fact that he’s wearing a three-hundred-dollar Italian silk tie and a hundred-dollar suit, no doubt hoping the tie makes the suit look expensive and him important. He’s wrong.

   “I said, who are you?” he repeats when I apparently haven’t replied quickly enough, his impatience becoming my virtue as my role as cat in this game of cat and mouse is too easily established.

   Unwilling to waste words on a predictable, expected question that I’d never ask, I simply reach into the pocket of my three-thousand-dollar light gray suit, which I earned by beating opponents with ten times his experience and negotiation skills, and offer the unimportant prick my card.

   He snaps it from my hand and gives it a look that confirms my name and the firm I started a decade ago now, after daring to leave behind a certain partnership in a high-powered firm. “Nick Rogers?” he asks.

   “Is there another name on the card?” I ask, because I’m also a fearless smart-ass every chance I get.

   He stares at me for several beats, seeming to calculate his words, before asking, “How many Mr. Rogers sweater jokes do you get?”

   I arch a brow at the misguided joke that only serves to poke the Tiger. Suit Number Two, who I age closer to my thirty-six years, pales visibly, then snatches the card from the other man’s hand, giving it a quick inspection before his gaze then jerks to mine. “The Nick Rogers?”

   “I don’t remember my mother putting the word ‘the’ in front of my name,” I reply drily, but then again, I think, she didn’t ask my father to change my last name, either. She just hated him that much.

   “Tiger,” he says, and it’s not a question, but rather a statement of “oh shit” fact.

   “That’s right,” I say, enjoying the fruits of my labor that created the nickname, not one given to me by my friends.

   “Who, or what, the fuck is Tiger all about?” Suit Number One asks.

   “Shut up,” Suit Number Two grunts, refocusing on me to ask, “You’re representing Ms. Winter?”

   “What I am,” I say, “is standing right here by her side, telling you that it’s in your best interests to leave.”

   “Since when do you handle small-time foreclosures?” he demands, exposing the crux of Ms. Winter’s situation.

   “I handle whatever the fuck I want to handle,” I say, my tone even, my lips curving as I add, “including the process of having you both escorted off the property by security.”

   “That,” Suit Number One dares to retort, “would garner Ms. Winter unwanted attention in the middle of a busy event. Not that Ms. Winter even has security to call.”

   “Fortunately, I have a phone that dials 911 and the ability to call it without asking her.”

   “If she’s your client,” Suit Number One says, clearly inferring that she’s not, “you’re obligated to operate with her best interests in mind.”

   “My decisions,” I reply, without missing a beat and without claiming Ms. Winter as a client, “are always about winning. And I assure you that I can think of many ways to spin your story to the press that ensure I win, while also benefiting Ms. Winter.”

   “This isn’t my story,” Suit Number One indicates.

   “It will be when I’m finished with the press,” I assure him, amused at how easily I’ve led him down the path I want him to travel.

   “This is a small community with little to talk about but her,” he says. “She doesn’t want her foreclosure to become the front-page story.”

   My lips quirk. “If you don’t know how easily I can get the wrong attention for you here, and the right attention for Ms. Winter, you’ll find out.”

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