Twisted
Author:Emma Chase

What’s that? You think I sound like Drew? That’s what Delores says—that he’s infected me with his profanity. She calls it Drew-speak. I guess after two years, it kind of rubs off.

 

So I can see that you’re wondering what happened. You were so in love. You were so perfect for each other. Tell me about it.

 

Or better yet, tell the stripper.

 

Anyway—believe it or not—the real problem wasn’t another woman. Not at first. Drew wasn’t lying when he said he’d always want me. He did. He still does.

 

He just doesn’t want us.

 

Still don’t understand? That’s because I’m not telling it right. I should start at the beginning. See, last week I found out . . .

 

No, wait. That’s not going to work either. If you’re going to understand, I need to go back further.

 

Our end began about a month ago. I’ll start there.

 

 

 

 

 

Five weeks earlier

 

 

“Well, hot damn, looks like we got ourselves a deal!”

 

The guy in the cowboy hat? Signing that stack of papers, across from me at the conference table? That’s Jackson Howard Sr. The younger version in the black hat, sitting next to him? That’s his son, Jack Jr.

 

They’re cattle ranchers. Owners of the largest cattle ranch in North America, and they’ve just acquired the most innovative developer of GPS tracking software in the country. Now, you may ask yourself, why would two already wealthy businessmen travel across the country to expand their empire?

 

Because they want the best. And I’m the best.

 

Or should I say we are.

 

Drew takes the final document from him. “Sure do, Jack. I’d start looking into yachts for business travel, if I were you. When the profit reports roll in, your tax adviser’s going to want something big to write off.”

 

Kate and Drew.

 

The dream team of Evans, Reinhart and Fisher.

 

John Evans, Drew’s father, definitely knew what he was doing when he put us together. A fact he proudly loves to remind us of.

 

To hear him tell it, he knew all along that Drew and I would be an unbeatable team—unless we killed each other. Apparently that was a chance John was willing to take. Of course, he didn’t know we’d end up together like we are now, but . . . he takes credit for that part too. Starting to see where Drew gets it from, aren’t you?

 

Erin walks in now with our clients’ coats. She makes eye contact with Drew and taps her watch. He nods discreetly.

 

“I say we go out and celebrate—paint this town red! See if you city folk can keep up with the likes of me,” Jackson Howard says.

 

Even though he’s pushing seventy, he’s got the energy of a twenty-year-old. And I suspect he’s got more than a few bull-riding stories up his sleeve.

 

I open my mouth to accept the invite, but Drew cuts me off.

 

“We’d love to, Jack, but unfortunately Kate and I have a previously scheduled appointment. There’s a car waiting for you downstairs to take you to the finest establishments in the city. Enjoy yourselves. And of course the tab’s on us.”

 

They stand and Jack tips his hat to Drew. “That’s damn fine of you, son.”

 

“It’s our pleasure.”

 

As we walk to the door, Jack Jr. turns to me and holds out his card. “It was a real pleasure working with you, Miss Brooks. The next time you’re in my neck of the woods, I’d be honored to show around. I have a feelin’ Texas would agree with you. Maybe you’ll even decide to stay and put down some roots.”

 

Yep, he’s coming on to me. Maybe you think that’s sleazy. I would have, two years ago. But like Drew told me then, it happens all the time. Businessmen are slick, cocky. They kind of have to be.

 

It’s one of the reasons this field has the third-highest rate of infidelity—right after truck drivers and police officers. The long hours, the frequent traveling, hooking up almost becomes inevitable. A foregone conclusion.

 

It’s how Drew and I started, remember?

 

But Jack Jr.’s not like the other jerks who’ve propositioned me. He seems sincere. Sweet. So I smile and reach out to take his card, just to be polite.

 

But Drew’s hand is faster than mine. “We’d love to. We don’t get a lot of work down South, but the next time we do, we’ll cash in that rain check.”

 

He’s trying to be professional, unemotional. But his jaw is clenched. Sure, he’s smiling, but have you ever seen Lord of the Rings? Gollum smiled too.

 

Just before he bit that guy’s hand off who was holding his “precious.”

 

Drew is territorial and possessive. That’s just who he is.

 

Matthew once told me a story: For Drew’s first day of kindergarten, his mother bought him a lunch box. A Yoda one. On the playground, Drew wouldn’t put it down because it was his and he was afraid someone would break it. Or steal it. It took Matthew a week to convince him that nobody would—or that together, they could beat the everlasting hell out of anyone who did.

 

At times like this, I know just how that lunch box felt.

 

I smile kindly at Jack Jr. and he tips his hat. And then they’re out the door.

 

As soon as it’s closed behind them, Drew tears John Jr.’s card in half. “Dickhead.”

 

I push his shoulder. “Stop it. He was nice.”