The Bargain:Vargas Cartel Series, Book 1(4)

By: Lisa Cardiff

“I’m going to get us a drink. What do you want?” Vera asked.

“A beer.”

“That narrows it down.”

I rolled my eyes. “Just order two of whatever you want.”

She chuckled as she walked away. “I have the perfect drink.”

I sat at one of the two empty seats at the table. “Have you seen Evan?”

Darren smirked. “I think he went to the bathroom.”

Matt elbowed him and shook his head, his eyes narrowed.

“What?” Darren said. “She asked. I answered.”

“Right,” Matt said, drawing out the word. “You’re totally innocent.”

My eyes bounced between them. Obviously, I missed some important information. “I’ll be back.”

I pressed through the people crowding the dance floor, heading toward the bathrooms located at the end of the hall. Evan and I came to this bar more than a few times to listen to the live music, so I knew where to find the bathroom.

I turned the corner near the edge of the dance floor intending to wait for Evan. Every muscle in my body turned to cement when I saw him. My stomach knotted, and my heart spiraled to a painful stop. I rubbed my eyes, unwilling to believe what I saw at the end of the hallway.

Evan stood at the end of the hall, his body smashed against some blonde-haired woman in a short blue dress, her arms locked around his neck. With his tongue halfway down her throat and one of his hands under her skirt, his body moved against hers in a rhythm that made my dinner lurch in my stomach.

The live music reverberated harshly through my ears. Anger and betrayal pumped like acid through my veins. Hot tears seared the corners of my eyes and my hands fisted the fabric of my dress. I tried to blink away the evidence of my shattering heart and be strong, but the tears kept coming, refusing to leave my dignity intact.

Part of me wanted to bolt for the door and drink enough alcohol to burn the image from my eyes, but the rest of me wanted to rip every last strand of Evan’s perfectly gelled hair from his head.

“Evan,” I yelled, but his name clotted in my throat.

He lifted his head, and his dark eyes locked with mine.

“Hattie, baby,” he said pushing away from the woman. “I’m sorry.” He held out his hand to me—the same one that had been up that woman’s dress five seconds earlier—and I felt something break inside me beyond recognition. My heart? Trust? I didn’t know.

I backpedaled a few steps, shaking my head from side to side, my short hair whipping my cheeks. “Don’t touch me.” A dozen fragmented thoughts collided in my brain, but my mouth floundered. The ability to focus escaped me. Was this the first time he’d cheated? Or did it happen so often that he wasn’t worried about me catching him in the act? Was he dating this woman too? Were there others? Did his friends know?

“Evan,” the blonde woman said as her bubblegum fingernails dug into the skin on his forearm. “What’s going on?”

He snatched his arm out of her grasp, keeping his glued to mine. “Lena, you need to leave. You were a mistake. It’s over.”

Her heavily made-up blue eyes widened for a minute and then she marched past him, her shoulder knocking into mine. “Go to hell. You said you weren’t dating her anymore,” she yelled, her finger waving in my direction. “Don’t call me again. I’m done with your games.”

With those few words, she confirmed I hadn’t interrupted a one-time hookup. I put a hand on my stomach willing the contents to stay put.

“It’s not as bad as it looks.” Evan took a tentative step toward me.

“You’re right.”

Relief caused his face to sag, and he blew out a long exaggerated breath. “Let me—”

He actually thought I’d fall for his dumb excuses. “It’s worse,” I interrupted. “How many times?”

His eyebrows scrunched together, marring the smooth skin between his dark eyes. “What are you talking about?”

“How many times have you cheated?”

“Baby, what happened tonight will never happen again. We’re good together. Don’t throw it away over a little misstep.”

“A misstep? It won’t happen again.” I echoed his words as the tears blurred my vision until I felt like I was looking through a prism into an alternate reality. “What does that mean? You’re insane if you think I’ll believe anything that falls out of your mouth right now.”

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