I tightened my grip on my phone, Gavin’s words echoing in my ears as he waited for me to respond.

“I missed you and just had to hear your voice, so I did my detective thing and found your number.”

What was I supposed to say to that after what I’d just learned?

The list went rapid-fire through my mind. Gavin pretending to have been just a member of Club Privé when we’d met him there last night, when, in fact, he owned the place. Even worse than that, he had hired Jeff to follow Krissy, to get to know her while pretending to be a rich investor; all so he could get the two of us to the club’s opening. And I still didn’t know who had been the target. Krissy… or me.

Krissy stared at me with wide eyes. She mouthed his name and I nodded. Her eyes narrowed. “Hang up on the bastard.”

I was seriously considering it.

“Carrie?”

Apparently my near full minute of silence had made Gavin realize that something was wrong.

“Are you okay?”

The sincerity in his tone as he asked the question was what set me off. The temper I usually had no problem keeping under control flared.

“Are you fucking kidding me?” I didn’t shout the words, but Krissy actually sat back as if I had. My tone was flat and I struggled to keep it that way. “You lie to me, fuck me, and then call me like everything’s just fine?”

Krissy stood up, the expression on her face saying that she didn’t want to be here for this. I was too pissed at the moment to be grateful for the privacy. I would’ve had it out with Gavin even if we’d been in the middle of a public place. Like I’d said before: I didn’t get truly angry often, but when I did, it was bad.

“Whoa, wait. What are you talking about?”

I could hear the shock in his voice, but I didn’t believe it for a moment. It all made sense now. Him knowing where I worked. Showing up at the club. Having access to that room and saying it didn’t matter how long we were there. He’d been playing me. I wouldn’t even put it past him to have arranged our first meeting at Huggins. I wanted answers, and I could feel the cool logic that made me good at my job breaking through my anger. One fueled the other and my focus sharpened.

“Let’s start with the easy one.” Studying to be a lawyer had taught me to think in steps. Some lawyers came out with the big guns first, but I always did it the other way, building my case from the weakest link to the strongest, wanting to leave the jury with the most damning piece of evidence when they went to deliberation. “You aren’t a member of Club Privé. You own it.”

Silence.

At least he didn’t come back with a quick denial. That would’ve pissed me off more.

“You’re half-right,” he said finally. “I’m only part owner. I have several silent partners.”

“Part owner,” I echoed his words back to him. He still sounded like he was hedging, and I needed to know how open he was going to be. If he balked at this, I’d never get the truth out of him about the stalking.

“Club Privé was my idea but a club this elaborate, of this magnitude, requires a lot of capital,” he explained. “I could never have built this on my own. There are nine other investors. Technically, they each own a part of the club, but since I’m the creator and day-to-day manager, I guess you could say I’m the owner.” His tone had shifted from confused concern to something more cautious.

“You told me you were a member. You never said anything about being a part owner.” I stuck with the accusatory method rather than asking questions. I wasn’t in the courtroom, so I could get away with it. Besides, I was still pissed.

“I like you, Carrie, but I don’t know you that well,” he said. “I wanted to see if you liked me for who I was, not because I had money. I’ve had enough women offer to sleep with me to get to my bank account.”

I scowled. That was a good reason. I didn’t want him to have a good reason. I wanted to trap him in this lie without an excuse so that it would be easy to believe he was just a fake, a bastard pretending to be a good guy.

“I’ll give you that,” I had to concede before I moved on to the big issue. “But you also said it was a coincidence that we ended up at the club at the same time.”

I paused, waiting to see if he’d incriminate himself or lie again. He did neither.

“You knew I’d be there.” My voice grew tight as the betrayal cut through me again. “You knew because your employee, Jeff, told you that I would be. He told you because you hired him to stalk my roommate and use her to get to me.”

“Carrie, that’s not–”

I interrupted, my temper overcoming my logic as my hurt strengthened my anger. “It’s bad enough you kept tabs on me, but to have someone follow my friend and pretend to like her? They slept together, you know. You paid your employee to fuck my friend. Do you know what that makes you?”

“Hold on!” Gavin raised his voice, cutting off my tirade. “That’s not what happened.”

“So you’re calling Krissy a liar? Or was it just Jeff who’s lying?”

“No,” Gavin said. “That’s not – I mean…” He sighed. “I did have Jeff get to know Krissy and invite her to the Club. I asked him to suggest she bring you, but I never told him to sleep with her. In fact, I told him just the opposite. He could flirt, but he wasn’t supposed to have sex with her.”

“Excuse me if I don’t believe a word you say.” I pulled my legs up underneath me. Part of me wanted to curl up in a ball here on the couch and cry, but I couldn’t do that. Not until I knew the truth.

“Look, from the moment I met you at Huggins, I was drawn to you.” Gavin’s voice took on an almost desperate note. “I kept waiting for your call, and when you didn’t make one, I thought maybe I’d done something wrong. I got curious. I had to know more about you, find you so I could figure out what happened. I did go back to the bar to ask about you. It’s the truth. It wasn’t until after we went to lunch that I realized I had to be a bit more creative if I wanted to learn more about you. Getting Jeff to invite you both to the club seemed like a good idea at the time. It was stupid, I know, but I was desperate. I needed to know more.”

“So you hired someone to stalk my best friend?” I ignored the way my stomach squirmed when he talked about needing me.

“What better way to get to know someone than to talk to the person who knows them best?”

That was actually pretty smart, I thought.

“I’m so sorry, Carrie. And please tell Krissy that I never meant for her to get caught in this. It was just supposed to be a few drinks. I didn’t know Jeff was going to sleep with her.”

That wasn’t going to happen. “You’re going to have to make right with her on your own. I’m not playing your go-between.”

“Fair enough,” Gavin said. His voice softened. “Please believe me, Carrie. I just wanted to see you, to get to know you. I was an idiot who went way too far, but I get…obsessive when there’s something I want. And I want you.”

I swallowed hard as my body responded to his words. I wanted him too. Badly. But could I trust him? Trust wasn’t really an issue for a fling, but if it was ever going to be anything more than that one time – okay, technically two times – I had to know that he was being honest with me.

“You lied.”

He was silent for a moment. “No more lies. I swear. Please, forgive me. Let me see you again. I promise to make it up to you.” He sounded more insecure than I’d have thought possible. “Forgive me.”

I wanted to, and the words were on the tip of my tongue to say. Just a few little words and I could be with him. But my heart still stung with his betrayal, and no matter how good he was in bed, or how enamored with him I was, it wasn’t enough to soothe the pain.

“I don’t think I can.”

I hung up before he could plead his case any further.

Club Prive Book II

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