All or Nothing(12)

By: Catherine Mann

Seeing her on the security camera feed from the solarium didn’t help his restraint, either.

But the secure room offered the safest place for him to hang out with a couple of his high school buds—Donavan and Douglas—who’d also been recruited for Interpol by Colonel Salvatore. The colonel had his own little army of freelancers drafted from the ranks of his former students. Although God knows why he’d chosen them, the least conformist boys in the whole school. But they were tight with each other, bonded by their experiences trying to patch their lives back together.

They’d even dubbed themselves “The Alpha Brotherhood.” They could damn well conquer anything.

Now, they shared a deeper bond in their work for Salvatore. For obvious reasons, they still couldn’t talk freely out in public. But a vaulted security room in his casino offered a place of protected privacy so they could let their guards down.

The remains of their lunch lay scattered on the table. Normally he would have enjoyed the hell out of this. Not today. His thoughts stayed too firmly on Jayne, and his hand gravitated toward her image on the screen.

Donavan tipped back his chair, spinning his signature fedora on one finger. “Hey, Conrad, I picked up some great Cuban smokes last week, but I wouldn’t want to start Malcolm whining that his allergies are acting up.”

Douglas scratched at the hole in the knees of his jeans. “I do not whine.”

“Okay—” Donavan held up his hands “—if that’s the story you want to go with, fine, I’m game.”

“I am seriously going to kick the crap out of you—” Douglas had picked fights from day one “—just for fun.”

“Bring it.”

“I would, but I don’t want to risk straining my vocal cords and disappoint the groupies.” Douglas grinned just like he was posing for the cover of one of his CDs. “But then, you’ve been benched by marriage so you wouldn’t understand.”

Some things never changed. They could have all been in their barracks, seventeen years ago. Except today Conrad didn’t feel much like joining in. His eyes stayed locked on the screen showing security feed from his place.

Or more precisely, his eyes stayed locked on Jayne at the indoor pool with Donavan’s wife. He couldn’t take his eyes off the image of her relaxed and happy. Jayne wore clothes instead of a swimsuit, not that it mattered when he could only think of her wearing nothing at all. She was basking in the sun through the solarium windows.

Donavan sailed his hat across the room, Frisbee style, nailing Conrad in the shoulder. “Are you doing okay, brother?”

Conrad plucked the hat from the floor and tossed it on the table alongside his half-eaten bowl of ratatouille. “Why wouldn’t I be?”

“Oh, I don’t know...” Malcolm lowered his chair legs to the ground again. “Maybe because your ex-wife is in town and you haven’t stopped looking at her on that video monitor since we got in here.”

“She’s not my ex-wife yet.” He resisted the urge to snap and further put a damper on their lunch. “Anybody up for a quick game of cards?”

Donavan winced. “So you can clean me out again?”

Malcolm hauled his chair back to the table. “Now who’s whining?”

Pulling his eyes if not his attention off Jayne, Conrad swept aside the dishes and reached for a deck of cards.

Between their freelance work for Interpol and their regular day jobs, there was little time left to hang out like they’d done during the old days. Damn unlucky for him one of those few occasions happened to be now, when they were all around to witness the final implosion of his marriage.

And what if he didn’t get one last night with Jayne? What if he had to spend the rest of his life with this hunger gnawing at his gut every time a blonde woman walked by? Except no woman, regardless of her hair color, affected him the way Jayne did.

No matter what he told his brothers, he was not okay. But damn it, he would be tonight after the concert when he lay Jayne back on that sofa and made her his again.

* * *

Jayne hadn’t been on a date in three years, not even to McDonald’s with a friend. How ironic that her first post-separation outing with a man would be with her own estranged husband. And he’d taken her to a black-tie charity concert on the Côte d’Azur—the French Riviera.

Although she had to admit, his idea of finding a peaceful middle ground had merit—even if he’d all but blackmailed her to gain her cooperation.

At least seated in the historic opera house she could lose herself in the crowd, simply sit beside Conrad and enjoy the music, without worrying about temptation or messy conversations. Malcolm Douglas sang a revamp of some 1940s tune, accompanying his vocals on the grand piano. His smooth baritone voice washed over her as effortlessly as the glide of Conrad’s fingers on her shoulder. So what if her husband had draped his arm along the back of her seat? No big deal.