“Wanted to talk to Dan.”
“He’s in the conference room.” I stepped toward it, and Gerry put his hand on my shoulder to stop me. “Wait.”
“Let me get him.”
“It’s fine. I know about Clarice. It’s not going to be a scene.”
He twisted his face into a half smile that meant he was going to say something difficult. “I know you’d never make a scene. Neither would he. And Clarice isn’t here yet. But it’s not that.”
I crossed my arms. “Describe it, then.” A fake laugh echoed through the room. I recognized the ex-mayor Rubin right away.
Gerry took a deep breath, calculated to let me know the conversation was hard for him. “Who you’re seeing is going to get out. Eventually.”
“Oh, you’re kidding—”
“You can’t pretend it won’t have a negative effect on his candidacy. And I’d hate to say this thing is in the bag so soon, but if—no, when—he wins, it’s going to be a pressure point, even if you don’t keep showing up.”
“Theresa?” Daniel had found me. He put his hand on my shoulder.
He kissed me on the cheek, and Gerry cleared his throat, looking around to check if anyone had seen.
“Take it easy, Gerry,” Daniel said, his hand still on my bicep.
Gerry smiled and folded his hands in front of him. “This is lovely. So happy we’re all getting along. Now”—he opened a wooden door with a window set into it and dropped his voice—“get the fuck out of sight.”
He pushed Daniel past the door but did it gently, by the hip, so it didn’t look like he was being pushed. Then he closed the door.
The office belonged to the Heritage president, and some of the oldest medals in the club’s possession were shelved there.
I wanted to break all of them. As soon as the door clicked, I turned on Daniel, keeping my voice at a low growl. “Do not ever, ever send your team of pit bulls after my friends. If you want to know something, you come to me.”
“This is about the director?”
“Don’t play games,” I said.
He sat down on the leather couch as if I’d said nothing at all. He’d learned something from me, apparently. I was the one who got calm during a fight, and he was the one who flew off the handle. Well, that was about to change, because I suddenly understood what it meant to deal with a passive aggressive.
“You went to Katrina about Antonio. That is not acceptable.”
“You should sit down.” He sat back with his arms in front of him. But we’d discussed that, hadn’t we? The position of his arms and what it transmitted, how to speak without speaking, how to say two things at once was a big part of what Daniel and I did together, and hands in front was meant to project a simple honesty, even when it was a lie. “My office is following leads on a money-laundering scam through a restaurant in San Pedro. It’s public knowledge.”
I remained standing. “I don’t want you harassing my friends.”
“I don’t want you fucking a known criminal while I’m running for office, but we don’t always get what we want.”
I didn’t know what I’d expected. The visit was impulsive. I hadn’t prepared Daniel, and I hadn’t prepared myself.
“You’re turning your professional bailiwick into a personal vendetta.”
“Give me a break. You want a personal vendetta? I’ve got your sister Margie on wiretapping. Your brother has a few shady real-estate deals in his portfolio. Another sister’s got two potentially illegal adoptions. And the other one, fuck. What the fuck happened at Westonwood sixteen years ago? And as for your father, don’t even get me started on his disgusting personal tastes, which everyone knows and no one talks about. I’ve had a personal vendetta to protect you and your family, and let me tell you, it’s wearing thin. I could take your entire family down faster than I could take Antonio Spinelli down. But I don’t because of what we had. Because I respect it. So don’t come in here and tell me how to do my job.”
I threw my bag down next to him and stepped forward until my knees were in front of his. “Daniel, let’s talk about respect. What it means.”
I leaned over, putting one hand on the arm of the couch and one on the back, bending until my lips were at his ear.
“Tink, please.” He tried to push me away, but the effort was halfhearted.
“Respect isn’t treating me like I’m made of sugar. Because I’m not. I’m made of cum and saliva. I’m made of salty sweat, and I taste like fucking. I sound like an orgasm that’s so hard you can’t even scream, and I fuck like a closed fist.”
He turned to me until his breath was on my cheek. I heard him swallow.
“Do you want me?” I knew the answer. “I can feel your fingers twitching. You want to stick them in me. You want to see if I’m wet. You’re confused because I don’t usually make your balls ache. Because you respect me. Women you respect can’t take a man’s cock in their ass and beg for more.”
“Jesus, Tink.” He was barely breathing.
He reached for my breast, and I caught him at the wrist and pinned it to the back of the couch.
“If you knew me, you’d respect me. If you respected me, you wouldn’t threaten my family. And you wouldn’t even breathe my lover’s name.”
He deflated, though his dick was still rigid under his trousers. I stood straight.
“Since we’re doing threats, let’s talk about the illegal campaign contributions, the filthy texts. There’s enough borderline stuff I know about you to sink your career. But if you fuck with me, it’s going to be my civic duty to tell the LA Times about how I helped you with your struggles with overseas taxation.”
“Fuck with me,” I said. “Please. I want you to. I want to shed a tear, telling the Times about how we opened accounts for the express purpose of your tax efficiency two weeks before you lobbied to pass laws against them.”
I crossed my arms and set my mouth. We stared at each other.
“This sounds like an impasse,” he said.
“Then we understand each other.”
I backed up and reached for the knob. Quicker than I would have thought possible with that rod of an erection, he got up and put his hand over mine. “How is he going to react to you being here? Is he going to be able to hold himself together long enough for you to win his war for him?”