DAIR (THE WILD SIDE #3)

By: R.K. Lilley

CHAPTER ONE





I tried it again.

Tried moving on from her by keeping busy.

But this time was so different, the weight of her absence heavier with the grief of permanence attached.

Still, I tried.

I kept up my newfound social calendar, at first.

I went to Turner’s twice a week, to talk and vent. It did help; his company was good for me, but only until I was alone again, with my own thoughts, and this crushing sense of loss.

It was a Tuesday, a few weeks post-letter, and we were drinking coffee while he talked too much (to distract me) and I let him.

He was wearing sweatpants and a red muscle tee with a picture of Tyrion Lannister on it that read ℗imp, his arms tan and bulging big enough to make me want to hit the gym again as soon as I left his house.

“Now you can barely even come to my house,” he complained after Candy finally left us alone and went back to her office. She’d been sitting beside me on the couch in front of Turner’s desk, trying out more of her blatant come-ons for a solid five minutes.

I brushed them all off without so much as blushing. I was getting used to her.

“You’ve managed to get Candy fucking crushing on you.”

“Me?” I asked, incredulous. “You’re going to blame me for that? You’re the one that asks her all those hypothetical questions about fucking me.”

He looked thoughtful. “You make a good point. From now on, all of my new assistants will be required to prove that they understand the word hypothetical before they get the job.”

“Is Candy on her way out already?”

“I think so. She hates her job, and she’s terrible at it. I give her two more weeks before she quits.”

I just shook my head, laughing.

Not for the first time, he started throwing out theories about what had happened to Iris, and so did I, but we were both writers of fiction, so it was clear, if unspoken, that we shouldn’t trust our own far-fetched ideas.

“It’s something with the sex trade, I bet. She’s owned by some sheikh, and the fucker in the Jag has been hired to keep track of the property.”

I really didn’t like that theory.

He’d thrown out several, and I didn’t like any of them, but that was definitely my least favorite. In fact, my overactive imagination had painted it into a picture that made me slightly ill before he’d even finished.

So ill that I found myself forming an argument against it.

“That wouldn’t make sense. It’s something with that guy. He hates me, and I saw her kiss him on the cheek once. And he touched her hair.”

“Well, fuck. Maybe she’s FBI, CIA, some shit like that. That kick she used on Tammy was pretty badass.”

“Maybe. I just got the very distinct impression that whatever she’s involved in, she doesn’t seem to be a willing participant. It felt like she was running away from it. And she was scared. She admitted that to me. And according to you, she is barely legal, which is too young to be FBI or CIA.”

“Not necessarily, but I concede the point. How about she’s been forced into a life as a high-priced prostitute, and that blond guy is her pimp?”

“You think she kisses her pimp on the cheek?”

“Stockholm syndrome.”

“I’m telling you, it’s something personal with him. He hates my guts. I could tell with a look.”

“Well, I’m sure he could tell you hate his guts. Can’t blame the guy for reciprocating.”

“Whose side are you on?”

His bright blue eyes were laughing at me even as he tried to keep a straight face. “Yours. Sheesh. Just trying to find answers, and possibly brainstorming for a new book.”

I pointed at him. “Don’t you dare write about this.”

He grinned like he was planning to do whatever the hell he pleased. He always did.

“Maybe she’s involved with the mob. Hey, I know.” He snapped his fingers, and his face got animated.

He was way too excited about this.

“Her dad is a mob boss, that blond guy is her bodyguard, and he’s in love with her. She left because she doesn’t want you getting mixed up with ‘the family.’ Her dad would probably kill you if he knew about you.”

Of course I didn’t care for that one bit, but it seemed like as good of a guess as anything else, though that was all that it was. A guess. It was frustrating as all hell, because I was starting to doubt that I would ever get any real answers.

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