BY: SILA LONG

Who is Isaac Coles? Should Brook have married a man she knows so little about? These haunting questions loom large in the backdrop of a life she has chosen with Isaac, filled with passion and fantasy. Will such questions test the limits of Brook’s love? One thing is true, together they are on an incredible and complicated journey that we get to vicariously experience.

Book three of the Brush of Fate Trilogy concludes with an unexpected life-changing intrusion—and Brook’s final stand.

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TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In Always ~ A Brush with Fate ~ Book 3 by Sila Long, Brook Jacobson-Coles is now married to superstar actor, Isaac Coles, and expecting their first baby. Brook is also a star now in her own right since the film she starred in with Isaac has been released to sell-out crowds and rave reviews. Brook has had to make some major adjustments in her life, but nothing like what’s in store for her shortly. Can she deal with the changes that are coming?

This book is written in past tense, which made it even more suspenseful, in my opinion. Well written, fast paced, hot and sexy, it’s my kind of book. I loved it.

REGAN MURPHY SAYS: Always ~ A Brush with Fate ~ Book 3 by Sila Long is the continuation of the Brook Jacobson/Isaac Coles saga. In this segment, Brook is learning to adjust to her new fame as a film star. The movie that she starred in with Isaac has been released, and people are raving about it. Brook is now being recognized on the street and learning that she is no longer safe in her anonymity. She is also still dealing with ghosts from Isaac’s past, as well as her own baggage from her unfaithful and murdered husband, and the case he was working on at the time, which never seems to die. Told in past tense this time, the story is even more timely and compelling that its two predecessors. Don’t get me wrong, all three books are thrilling, but Long seems to have come into her own with this one, making it a perfect conclusion to the trilogy. It also gives us a look at the darker side of something most of us fantasize about as a dream life. Boy, isn’t reality a drag?

Always is well written, fast moving, and intriguing, with a solid and complex plot, a number of minor subplots, plenty of surprises, and marvelous characters that you can’t help but root for.

Chapter 1

May twelfth, the day after my birthday—a day that was filled with so much joy, warmth, family. I should have expected the intrusion of darkness. But not this! My hands had finally stopped shaking.

I overheard the officer confirming the time of death, twelve-forty-seven a.m., before he entered the room. “Mrs. Coles, I need to ask a few questions just for the record.”

The officer’s tone was firm but gentle, a sharp contrast to the steel-like feel of this small room. I was freezing. Couldn’t tell if it was the temperature of the room or if my body had switched to some sort of protective mode. I felt numb. “Yes. That’s fine.”

I wanted to go home. What’s taking Isaac so long? Why was I here? I needed to be home with our baby.

“Do you have any knowledge as to why the deceased wanted to harm you?” His voice was calm but felt detached from the question.

“Deceased,” his new and final label. Mine was “killer.”

There was really no simple answer to the question.

“I’m freezing. Can I get a cup of hot tea, please?”

He rose without hesitation. “Yes. I’ll be right back.”

I could look back on each turning point that held the trajectory of my life—fate’s stomping ground. Suppose the news brought by the officers that early morning in January had been different, would I be sitting here, freezing my ass off?

***

“An accident,” is all that I heard.

My knees were about to give way. Please, please, God, not Isaac. How can you do this to me again? Not now when our life as a family is just beginning. I could barely hear anything other than the terrified voice in my head. But if the news were about Isaac, I believed I would have felt it. I didn’t.

I watched the officer’s lips move as I anticipated the slow release of doom at my doorstep. I clenched the bottom of my top. Ben glanced at me and moved closer, revealing our changed relationship.

“I’m the personal security for the Coles,” he said. “An accident?”

The officer nodded. He was so polite, so sincere. The sweet messenger of dreadful news. He held my entire life in his next words. “Kenny Headley gave us your name and address to contact prior to being airlifted to Northeastern Trauma Center early this morning.”

“Oh my God!” I finally said something. God, I hoped my expression didn’t expose my relief. Of course, Kenny asked for me, knowing that Isaac would not be home from Cali yet.

“He was in a serious vehicle mishap heading south on the Parkway sometime after mid-night,” the officer explained.

“He is expected to survive his injuries,” the other office quickly interjected.

Mishap? Was this the terminology used by law enforcement to describe someone seriously injured? This guy was an idiot. First, he scared the bejesus out of me and now—

Let it go. Isaac will soon be home, and Kenny will be fine.

“He is probably undergoing surgery as we speak.”

“For what?” I asked.

“We are not privy to that information. I can tell you that the medics on the scene said that he’ll be okay.”

“Was he conscious?”

“Yes.”

“Thank God. Where is the hospital?”

“I know where it is, Brook,” Ben assured me.

“Thank you, Officers, I—my husband is also traveling at this hour—”

“Yes. I’m sorry for the scare. I realized by your reaction that I—”

“It’s okay.”

“Please congratulate Mr. Coles, for us. We were talking about the awards show on the way over.”

This was the reason for his fumble. Delivering important news to a superstar’s wife made him nervous. I forgot about how we were viewed by the outside world.

“I will. Thank you. Have a good day.”

I walked away, leaving Ben at the door to close the conversation while I tried to gain control. The aftermath of knowing the bad news could have been about Isaac was about to consume me. The palms of my hands were damp. I felt clammy, jittery. I ascended the stairs, seeking complete privacy in my bedroom.

Brook, all is well, Isaac is fine.

“But I’m not,” I replied softly to my inner voice. It could have been him. Fate spared me this time.

I heard Isaac’s words in my head, ‘Take deep breaths, baby, focus on your breathing.’

I peeled off my outer clothes, sat on the edge of the bed, and leaned over with my head between my knees, determined to restrain this spiraling feeling of doom.

“I’m okay, I’m okay, I’m okay.”

I heard voices downstairs, followed by quick footsteps up the stairs. It was Isaac. Our eyes locked. We did not speak. He understood. “I’m fine, baby. I’m here, and I’m fine.”

I couldn’t hold back the flood of emotions.

“It’s okay, baby. I know how you feel.” He kissed me all over my tear-drenched face. “I love you so much,” he whispered.

We sat there in silence while Isaac held me for what felt like an eternity.

***

Five days later, at our kitchen counter, we reflected on Kenny’s accident and all the crazy events surrounding our lives over the past six months.

“Is this chicken salad still good?” Isaac asked.

“Let me smell it.”

“If you have to smell it, that’s not a good sign.”

I nodded. “You’re right. You want me to make you something?”

“No. I’ll have the leftovers from last night.”

“Safe pick.”

“You know, we all needed this time to just hibernate. I don’t want you stressed out about anything.”

“Okay, but how long will this hibernation last? You’ve received a bunch of scripts to look at since your award and nomination for the Oscar. Thank God, the release date for Tiger’s Paw was delayed until March. This is not the time for you to drop off the grid, Zach.”

“Why not? You’re talking like my manager,” he scoffed.

“I’m your wife, your lover, your best friend, your business partner, and, yes, your manager.”

“Please drop the manager role. I already have one.”

I assumed a sad face, pretending to be crestfallen.

“I think this is one of the first times in my career that I don’t have a project in the pipeline that requires me to start to work soon again. I like how that feels.”

“And the first time in your career that you have won a golden globe and an Oscar nomination for the same film, wow. I’m surprised I don’t have to reel you in from the clouds. It’s truly amazing.”

He shifted his eyes to me. “What’s amazing is you and me and that baby growing inside of you. We’re in the house where we are going to raise our family. That’s what’s amazing! Everything pales in comparison to us, baby.”

“Good to hear that your priorities are straight, but there’s still stuff to do. You have to promote Tiger’s Paw, and then we have to promote Eve.”

“You act as though I need to be reminded. Yes, and that’s it. No acting gigs I have to start. Seriously, Brook, I want to do what I said I was going to do. Begin to focus on directing and take a break from acting. I want to take time to enjoy my wife, my new home, my new life. Watch your belly get big, maybe do some traveling before you can’t.”

“Hmm. Have you ever taken extended time off from work?”

“I’ve never had a reason. This is a new day, baby. A new Isaac Coles. It’s time I enjoy some of that money I’ve been making.”

“We’ll see. You’re a workaholic, and I don’t want you stressing me out during your hibernation.”

“I want to get off the grid for a couple of months,” he said. “We need quiet time.”

“How is that possible unless by ‘off the grid’ means you will not consider another acting job?”

“Yes. I mean I want to do only the things I need to do to make the projects already completed a success. My time isn’t divided between an active film project while selling and or producing a film. You saw how that goes.”

“Yes, but why do I feel that this quiet time is really screw-my-wife-as-much-as-I-can-while-I-still-can’ time.”

He smiled. “Yep, that too.”

“We’ll need to talk to the doctor about that. Yeah, let’s see how many more children you want when you find out that things come to a halt before and after, usually for six weeks.”

He had an expression of bewilderment. I laughed. “Maybe after we take a trip, I’ll go back to Johannesburg with Faith and Connie. We’ve been talking about that trip, and I want to firm up things with the foundation.”

“That’s not happening, Brook.”

“What do mean ‘that’s not happening’?”

He stopped preparing his snack. His eyes accurately conveyed his feelings before he uttered a word. “I think you have lost your mind if you think that my pregnant wife is going to tramp across the globe to unpredictable territory, at best, so that she can ‘firm up things with the foundation.’” He chuckled. “You don’t know who you’re married to. You need to figure out a way to conduct business via Skype or by whatever.”

Silence, as he continued to prepare his snack, and I sat digesting his words. This was one battle I wasn’t going to win. “You’re right. That wouldn’t be a good idea. My adjustment to being pregnant is slow.”

“I see.”

Our attention was grabbed by a report on the TV.

“…President Obama is taking action to cut loose the anchor of failed policies of the past and to chart a new course in US relations with Cuba. According to the president, we will work with Cuba on matters of mutual concern that advance US national interests, such as immigration, counter narcotics, environmental protection, and trafficking in persons, among other issues.” The reporter then moved on to the commentators for a reaction.

Isaac texted Ben as he spoke. “Jake. That lucky bastard might be able to return to the States soon.”

“I doubt it. He’s a criminal, and Obama is just starting his talks.”

“That’s what he wants everyone to believe. This is how he works. He floats the balloon and, before you know it, Castro has a room at the White House.”

“Sounds like the MO of someone else I know,” I teased.

My panting dogs entered the kitchen.

“Reggie just returned from exercising the dogs,” Ben yelled from the front door.

“Is Reggie trying to kill my dogs?”

“Brook, stop it! You should be glad someone is exercising them.”

“Ben, did you get my text?” Isaac shouted to Ben as he walked out to talk with him.

I set down water for my dogs. “How are you guys?” I was startled by Kahn. He was barking at me. “What’s the matter, boy?” I knelt down and made eye contact while he continued to bark. “What’s going on with you?”

Sunny sat next to me while looking at Kahn.

Isaac rushed into the kitchen. “What’s going on in here?”

“That’s what I want to know. He just started to bark at me.”

Isaac sat at the counter and studied Kahn.

I was on the floor petting Kahn who appeared more settled. “I need to get ready to visit Kenny. I don’t know if I should leave them.”

“He seems okay now.”

“Are you going to come with me?”

“Baby, you’ve been there every day for the past week. I don’t think he expects that.”

“You didn’t answer my question.”

He took my hand and pulled me up. “You go today, I’ll go tomorrow. Spread out the Coles’s love. Do you feel guilty about any of this?”

I hesitated. I probably did. “Yes. I guess I do. I know I shouldn’t, but I do.”

He pulled me to him and held me tight. “Shit happens.”

“Yes, I know. I feel that if anything good has come out of this terrible accident is that Kenny and I have become closer. Yes, he works for us, but right now that’s not important. There are no deadlines to meet, no agenda items to get to, we can just be.”

“That’s a good thing. Go and get ready so you can be home for dinner.”

As I walked away, Kahn was on my heels as if attached by a chain. “You can’t come upstairs with me, Kahn.”

“Kahn!” Isaac sternly called to him, and he obeyed.

***

As I entered Kenny’s room, an attractive woman, whose look and style reminded me of Erykah Badu, was about to leave. She flashed a pleasant smile but appeared surprised by my presence.

I felt the need to immediately introduce myself and extended my hand. “I’m Brook Coles.”

I couldn’t read her expression. Was she relieved or suspicious? “I’m Teresa. So glad to finally meet you. I feel like I already know you.”

“Really?” I turned to Kenny. “So what have you been saying, Mr. Headley?”

“How you catapulted into Isaac’s world and turned his life around,” Teresa answered.

Not an answer that I expected. “Wow!”

Kenny looked embarrassed and much brighter today.

“You look great today. Was it Teresa’s visit?” I teased.

He smiled. “She always manages to make me happy.”

“That’s a good thing.”

“And embarrass him. I’m leaving for sure now. Nice meeting you.”

“You, too.”

Kenny struggled to stand up. “I feel that this is my best day, Brook.”

“What are you doing?”

“I want to go for a stroll. I’m supposed to walk.”

“Oh. Okay. So, is Teresa that special one?”

His voice strained a little as he stood. “Teresa, the flower child. I don’t think so.”

“Why not?”

“A lovely, smart woman, who goes whichever way the wind blows. When I’m with her, I feel like the woman who complains about a man who can’t commit to a relationship.”

I chuckled. “The tables switched.”

He looked at me with one slanted eye. “In so many ways.”

“Ohhh.”

We both laughed.

“Well, that’s definitely not for you,” I said.

“I want what you and Isaac have.”

“What, a woman who catapults into your world and turns your life around?”

“That’s it.”

We slowly walked in a comfortable silence as I thought about what I wanted to say. “You, of all people, know that Isaac and I have been through some really tough times.”

“And you’re still here, and the bond between the both of you seems unbreakable.”

“Really? It seems that way to you?”

“To all of us. We feel it. Ever since the John incident, he’s been different. It freaked him out, almost losing you.”

I sighed.

“I know other stuff went down, Brook, but—”

“Ha! Stuff. More like a boatload of shit.”

“I was with Isaac when your sister called him from your house.”

I was surprised. “The night of the incident?”

“Yes, I’ll never forget that night. He let out a sound that still haunts me and then just started to weep. I didn’t know what to do. I took the phone from him. Your sister was hysterically saying the name of the hospital, then she ended the call. He started pacing and—”

“And what, Kenny?”

“I’ve never seen him so angry. His cell phone rang, and I hoped that it was Faith calling back but it was Ron. Then Ben came—”

“I thought Ben had gone to Atlanta?”

“No. Thank God. He, like only Ben could, got through to the paramedics in the ambulance and learned that you were alive. We didn’t know any more than that.”

“Wow, I never knew you were there.”

“Yeah, I was there. That night changed Isaac forever, whether you know it or not. I know it. That night changed him.”

We walked in silence before we reached the patient’s lounge. Kenny’s account of that night confirmed what I felt. Isaac had changed. That’s why I was so blindsided by what happened.

History, Brook.

Yes, I know.

“You’ll be out of here very soon. You’re so much stronger.”

“Brook, please don’t feel guilty about any of this. There was no other place that I wanted to be that night, and we had a blast!”

“Yes, we did.”

We sat there talking for some time before I finally left to arrive home before dinner.

My cell rang as I entered my car. I didn’t recognize the number.

“Hello.”

“Hi, Brook.”

“Yes.”

“Hi, this is Adrienne, John’s sister.”

Finally, some news. “Yes, hi.”

“We met ages ago. Do you remember?”

“Yes, I do. How are you?”

“Fine, fine. Clayton gave me your number. I hope you don’t mind, but we are all, the family, at our wits’ end about John.”

“I thought this call meant that you had some news.”

“I wish that were the case. Listen, first, how are you? I know that you suffered an injury. We were all so sorry to hear about what happened.”

“Yes. I’m well.”

“Good, good. I’m coming to Manhattan next week. I was hoping I could meet with you. I’d like to compare notes. There is so much we don’t know and don’t understand.”

“How is your mom doing?”

“Not well. This situation is eating her up inside.” Her voice broke.

“I can only imagine. I’m not sure if I have any information to add, but sure we can meet. Where will you be staying?”

“John’s apartment.”

“Okay, there are plenty of restaurants in the area so why don’t you give me a call once you’re in New York, and we’ll decide on a time and a place then.”

“Sounds good. Thank you, Brook. I look forward to seeing you.”

“Yes. Take care.” Damn, no news.

***

At home, I found Isaac in his office with the back of his chair turned to face the desk starring at the map of the world hanging on the wall.

“Hey, still trying to figure out where you belong in this world?” I teased.

He swiftly turned his chair around. “I know where I belong, right here with you.”

“You got that right.”

“How’s Kenny?

“Much better. I’m sure he’ll be discharged soon.”

“That’s good. I hope he’ll be ready to come back to work.”

“I think he’s actually looking forward to that.”

I sat in front of the desk.

Isaac looked at me as if waiting for me to say something. “What’s up, baby?” he asked.

“Adrienne, John’s sister, called me.”

“You know her?”

“Not really. We met once when I was with John. Clayton gave her my number.”

“What does she want?”

“She’s coming to Manhattan next week. She wants us to get together to compare notes.”

“So she had no news?”

“Apparently not. Wow, what they must be going through as a family.”

Silence as he stared at me while holding his forehead with his hand.

“I can’t help her,” I said.

“Maybe you can with some small piece of information that she doesn’t know about.”

“Maybe I don’t want to think about the situation anymore. What’s going here?”

“This Logan situation is getting hard to contain. Women are coming out of the woodwork with allegations—from sexual harassment to rape.”

“Jesus. You’re a board member, are we financially exposed?”

“The lawyer is reviewing the board’s insurance policy as we speak, but he feels that any possible financial settlement would be covered, and these cases are difficult to prove in a court of law.”

“I wonder if it’s not best for us if Studio Eight just closed shop—dissolved.”

“Yes, I was sitting here thinking the same thing.”

“Zach, we can find another location and just start from scratch. No agreements have been signed.”

“If the business is dissolved, there is no need to worry. It will save us a lot of time if we can buy the existing building and the equipment. Plus, the location is great.”

“Yes, but at what price? Shouldn’t that be the determining factor?”

“Yeah, and this whole thing might be a blessing in disguise. Logan, the gift that keeps on giving. We’ll be patient, baby, and see how this all plays out. In the meantime, I have other matters to keep me occupied.”

“Yep, you sure do,” I agreed. “So where is Logan?”

“Don’t know. Joel said he contacted him. His wife kicked him out. He asked Joel for a loan.”

Damn. This is like a riches to rags story. “Not a good bet. He’s not likely to get a job anytime soon.”

“Joel will lend him money, and Logan will probably go back to acting. You know how it is in our business. People don’t care if you’re an arrogant scum bag.”

“Hmm. That’s true if he can act. Can he act?”

Isaac appeared to be giving my question some thought. “Yes, I think so.”

“You watch, at some point, he’ll come knocking on our door for a part, and that is one ‘arrogant scum bag’ we will not hire,” I said emphatically.

“I’ve always put business before my emotions.”

He had succeeded in egging me on. “Bullshit!” I hissed.

We laughed.

“So how many other women were there?” I asked.

He looked at me suspiciously while smiling. “What’s the matter? You don’t feel special?”

“Oh, shut up, never mind.”

“It’s interesting, according to the lawyer, they were all women of color.”

I felt my anger surfacing all over again. “Hmm. Makes you wonder if that were his preference or the kind of women he thought would be more responsive, or he had no respect for.”

Isaac walked in front of the desk. “Come here, baby.”

“Every time I think about that situation, I want to scratch those blue eyes out of his head.”

Isaac smiled as his hold on me tightened. “Well, baby, he’ll never know about the gold I found between these legs. It’s all mine. Bought and paid for.”

I cackled. “What are you talking about? Didn’t you get the memo—slavery is over.”

“I paid for all of this for the price of a marriage certificate,” he teased.

“Now you have truly lost your mind.”

His expanding dick rubbed against my body.

“You are such a freak, Zach.”

He lifted me onto his desk. “I want some of my sweet pussy.”

“Shouldn’t you close the door?”

He slid my panties down my legs. “No one is coming in here.”

“You make a lot of noise.”

He paid me no mind. “I want to taste my appetizer before dinner.”

I leaned back and spread my legs open. He licked my pussy as if it were an ice cream cone before the tip of his tongue zeroed in on my clit.

My legs quivered. “Ohhh, ohhh, Zach.”

He stopped and looked at me. “What?” He smiled as he unbuckled his belt, pulled down his pants’ zipper, letting them drop to the floor, and eased his underwear down to his ankles. “He tried but failed because you’re mine.”

His lips brushed against mine as he teased me with his tongue before it touched mine. We kissed wildly as his dick found its way into my wetness.

“I love you, Zach,” I whispered.

His eyes were closed. I knew that expression. He opened them for a moment and smiled again. “Squeeze it, baby.”

I contracted my muscles. His body responded. He took me off the desk, hoisting me up and down by his sheer strength. My hands were under his shoulders holding on as he took me on a sexual ride.

“My sweet pussy, my sweet pussy…”

A picture of me riding a wild bull flashed through my head. Our bodies were wet and glued together by some supernatural force. In this position, it felt like every inch of our bodies was being satisfied. A burst of pleasure. “Ahhh. Ohhh, ohhh.”

“Let it go, baby,” he murmured before sounding like some strange animal—visceral, growing in intensity with each thrust.

I held back a rush of pleasure for as long as I could before a penetrating sustained climax washed over me. He squeezed my butt, keeping it clued to him. His body twitched with his final pokes. Our sexual ride was quick and now stilled. We were unbelievably satisfied. I tried to catch my breath as I placed my legs on the floor. “Damn, Zach! What was that?”

“A conversation.”

I giggled.

He flexed his biceps. “Me, Tarzan.”

I looked for my panties as he pulled up his pants.

“In a few months, you won’t be able to do that—Tarzan.”

“Yes. Tarzan can do.”

I laughed. “You know, we might have twins. Lots more weight to hoist up and down.”

That seemed to snap him out of his Tarzan routine. “Twins? You have twins in your family?”

“Yes, my grandmother was an identical twin.”

“Really! Where are they?”

“They were both living in Barbados. Both dead now. Died when I was a teenager.”

“I guess I’ll have to increase my weights just in case.”

“Oh, so you plan on sex as usual?”

“Hell, yeah.”

“This is going to be fun,” I said sarcastically.

“Hey, we’ll just have to see. You just stay healthy.”

“I’ll do my best. I’m going to make us dinner.”

“Yes, do that. I’ve worked up an appetite, and after dinner, we’ll have dessert.”

“What’s for dessert?”

“You know what’s for dessert. That was an appetizer, baby.”

***

“I combined some of what Cleo made with the lamb,” I said as Isaac entered the kitchen.

He sat at the table. “Sounds good. Just got off the phone with Carla. She’s in LA.”

“Really? I didn’t know she went out there.”

“Well, if she is going to make a move for the kids to be settled in school by September, she needs to get movin’. She is sending some pics and videos of two properties she loves.”

“Has she heard from Derrick?”

“I didn’t ask.”

“We can eat.”

“Where’s the salad, Brook. You know that needs to be a regular part of your diet.”

I got the salad and joined him at the table. “Yes, I know. I just forgot to put it out. I hope you’ll become a little more relaxed as my pregnancy progresses.”

He shrugged his shoulders. “Not sure how I’m going to be. Never had the experience.”

“Yeah. So it’s on me to make sure that you don’t drive me nuts.”

“Yep. When are you going to the doctor?”

“I made an appointment. Meant to tell you, it’s in a couple of weeks. I want you to come, but—”

“No buts, baby! Does she know who you are?”

“I don’t know. Spoke to the receptionist. How do you do that, say ‘my husband is Isaac Coles, so we’ll be in need of special accommodations’ without sounding pompous?”

“You don’t. You have Kenny make the appointment.”

“Well, he was out of commission at the time.”

“Okay, so you say something like ‘so not to cause any disruption in the office’s operations, I feel I need to tell you that my husband is Isaac Coles, and I know he will want to accompany me since this is our first child.’”

“And she’ll say, ‘Okay, that’s nice.’”

“No, she’ll say ‘oh, not to worry, you’ll be seen right away.’ Listen, professional folks know how to treat people of notoriety. It’s really because they don’t want us to feel uncomfortable because of an uncouth patient. That would be bad for business—this lamb is good, baby.”

“Yes, it is. I don’t want to become one of those—”

“You mean, like me?”

“No, not like you. You have a way of making people forget who you are.”

“Yeah, when I want to. Listen, you’ll always be Brook. My fierce, smart, Mother Theresa.”

“Ha, Ha. Maybe I’ll ask Kenny to confirm the appointment and make things clear.”

“Do that.”

He continued to look at his phone as we ate waiting for pictures Carla promised. “Let’s go to Miami for an extended week-end before your appointment. There’s lots of Salsa dancing in Miami. You can shake your bootie.”

“Now that sounds like a plan. Let’s do it!”

***

I was finally accustomed to the speed that Isaac moved and made decisions. I had no choice. Either I got used to his pace or used to being constantly stressed out. Those were my choices.

He started a conversation about Studio8 while we sat on the balcony that overlooked a scene that words could not adequately describe. Our penthouse condo in Miami was more than I expected. Luxurious but comfortable with trinkets from his travels with Cindy sprinkled throughout the space that provided small unexpected surprises. The apartment overlooked the ocean from thirty stories above.

“I spoke to the board’s lawyer. He wants to push back on the charges against Logan, feeling that it is their word against his, and they can’t prove anything.”

I suspected that he floated the idea for my reaction. “They have numbers. I’m not a lawyer, but there certainly appears to be a pattern. What do you think?”

“Well, I think some push back is necessary. If not, they will take us to the cleaners.”

“Yes, that’s true, but we have an important film coming out of the Studio dealing with women and abuse, which should not be tainted by the act of an idiot. Some push back, yes, but it should not be seen as the Studio not believing the women. There could be serious consequences to that.”

“Here’s what I’m thinking, baby, let’s buy the Studio now. We can promote the purchase as a desire to maintain the integrity of the company and appreciation for the incredible talent attached. We don’t want to see the important works diminished by scandal and are willing to take on the challenges of rebranding with an extended mission.”

“Well, you sold me, Zach. How much will it cost?”

“You always fool me. I was ready for a fight.”

“How much will it cost?” I asked more emphatically.

“Joel is looking into that now. That could be complicated, but we’ll know sooner than later. So you agree with the approach.”

“Yes. I do, as long as the new ownership and rebranding are completely divorced from the current legal issues.”

“I’ll talk to my lawyer about it.”

We paused the conversation as we both contemplated the possibilities. The surroundings added to a feeling that anything was possible. Isaac noticed that I was looking around, taking in the beautiful and soothing space. “You like it?”

“I love it. Did Cindy come here often?”

“Yes, she really enjoyed this spot. Loved decorating it.”

Wow, that was the first time he had mentioned her in a favorable tone. Progress.

“A woman’s touch is certainly evident.”

Long silence.

“How many women have you screwed here?” What I tried not to ask was blurted out.

He appeared unfazed by my question. Maybe he expected it. “Why would you go there, Brook?”

“That might be the one thing I don’t like about this place. Your memories.”

“Brook, I can tell you this, any memories that I may have about women and this place pales in comparison to the memories we’re creating.”

I nodded my head slightly.

“Don’t think about that. I’m sure as hell not thinking about it. We just did what we’ll be doing for the rest of our lives together. Discussing strategies to accomplish our goals. That’s what you should be thinking about.” He extended his hand for me to sit on his lap. “Come here. This is our place now, baby, and I’m so glad that you love it.” He brushed his lips across mine. “Let’s get ready to go out for dinner. I want to show you some of my favorite spots.”

***

In Miami, Isaac used a security firm which assigned the same driver every time he was in town. Private jets, chauffeur-driven cars, penthouse apartment, exceptional service wherever we went, our time was our own. I was adapting to this life, and it felt good.

Isaac instructed the driver where to go, as he pointed to places of interest, giving me the inside scoop on many. He wanted us to eat at a new spot, our first restaurant experience in Miami. I noticed a familiar face as we drove up to the entrance. “Zach, is that who I think it is?”

He followed the direction of my gaze. “Yes, it is. He’s waiting for someone, so the mystery may soon be over.”

Before we reached Derrick, a man arrived.

“Damn man I was about to leave,” Derrick scoffed.

He had not yet noticed us approaching from behind. I suddenly got a bad feeling about this and turned around to locate our driver. He was a few feet away ready to accompany us inside the restaurant.

Derrick’s friend answered, “You know you will always wait for me, D, so stop complaining.”

Isaac looked at me as if to say “Do you believe this shit?”

I pulled on him to change our direction. He ignored me.

“Imagine this! Running into my man, Derrick, here in Miami. What’s going on, man?” Isaac had him in one of his male handshake hugs while Derrick looked like he was trying to grow wings to escape.

“Hi, Derrick,” I said.

He looked so unsure about how to behave. Scared. “Hey, Isaac and Brook. What a surprise.”

His friend was not having the usual reaction when people were in such close contact with Isaac Coles. He seemed almost annoyed. Derrick awkwardly turned to his friend. He had apparently calculated that to ignore him would not be a good idea. “Mark, this is my brother-in-law, Isaac Coles, and his wife, Brook.”

Isaac was cool as a cucumber as we took turns shaking Mark’s extended hand.

“Yes, I can see that this is Isaac Coles. Don’t you mean your ex-brother in-law—nice meeting you both.”

Holy shit.

Isaac ignored Mark’s apparently testy attitude. “Man, you livin’ out here now?” he asked as if all was normal in the world.

Derrick barely made eye contact as he rubbed his hands together nervously. “Yeah, got an apartment a few blocks north of here. What are you guys doing here?”

“Remember I have the place on the beach, and I’ve been trying to find the time to bring Brook down to enjoy it.”

As they continued with this superficial conversation, I looked around. There was no one in our immediate space. The entrance to the restaurant was about five yards to our left, and folks entering were all occupied in their own worlds.

“Derrick, we were just going in for dinner—

“We have reservations at Omni—” Derrick was pointing to the restaurant next door. “—we’re meeting up with some folks.”

I wanted to end this uncomfortable encounter. “Oh, well we’ll be at the apartment, Pinnacle Tower, for a few more days. You should stop by.”

Isaac stood still and covered his mouth with one hand, as he stared at Mark and Derrick.

“That would be nice,” Mark replied.

Mark’s reply gave Isaac an opening to confirm the obvious. “Are you guys a couple?” He tried to sound nonjudgmental.

I cringed. This can’t be happening.

Mark gawked at Derrick, waiting for him to answer. “D, are we a couple? The man, your brother in-law, wants to know,” he continued, as if daring Derrick to say anything other than the truth. Derrick tried to pull Isaac to the side to have a private conversation, but Mark intervened. “No, D. You said you want this. Now it’s time to come clean!”

Derrick seemed speechless. I felt sorry for him.

I pulled at Isaac’s arm. “Zach, we have reservations. Let’s go in.”

He ignored me and glared at Derrick.

Derrick looked devastated.

I felt Isaac’s rage surface. I was scared. “Man, how long have you been lying to your wife? To us?” Isaac demanded.

“Lying about what?” was Derrick’s weak denial of the obvious.

“D, tell him. Tell him,” Mark goaded.

Derrick looked crushed. “I sure as hell didn’t want you to find out like this.”

“So when you told me that you met someone—”

Before Isaac completed his sentence, Derrick was on the ground with blood spewing from his mouth, and Isaac had momentarily left this planet as his arm returned from the forceful blow to Derrick’s face. I was transfixed while I watched this scene unfold in what felt like slow motion.

“Oh my God! Oh my God!” Mark screamed as he knelt on the ground, trying to help Derrick, who pulled away from him.

“Holy shit, Zach! I can’t believe—”

Our driver made eye contact with Isaac. “We should leave now!”

“That’s fine. I’ve lost my appetite.”

He grabbed my hand, without looking at me, and we both walked swiftly to the car, leaving Derrick bleeding on the ground and a commotion behind us.

“I don’t believe you did that,” I said.

“The man is a fraud, leaving a wife and two beautiful kids, for what? For that! Why the hell get married and have kids? It’s so fucked up!”

On the ride back to the apartment, we sat in silence. He was probably thinking what I was thinking. Did Carla know? What will this mean for the kids? There was always a feeling that, once Derrick came to his senses, he would begin to see his children regularly. Would that be in the cards now?

***

“We’ll order something, baby,” he said when we got back to the apartment.

“Yes, that’s fine.”

I knew this was not the time to talk about what just happened but when I thought about Derrick and Mark, and the craziness of the situation, I tried hard to suppress a laugh.

Isaac noticed. “You think this shit is funny?”

“No, Zach, it’s not funny, but…it is.” I could not control myself. Every time I thought about Mark and the situation, I laughed. Now my laughter was uncontrollable, and tears ran down my cheeks. “I’m sorry.” I tried to gain control. “But who would have ever imagined that Derrick would leave his wife for a ‘Mark.’ That must be some kind of attachment. That’s crazy!”

Isaac looked at me and acted out part of the scene. “‘D, tell him! Tell him!’”

We both laughed so hard that my stomach started to hurt.

“Yeah, this shit is so foul, we need to laugh,” he said. “I think I hurt my hand.”

“Let me see.” I examined his bruised hand that had landed squarely on Derrick’s face. “I’ll get some ice.”

He sat, motionless.

“You know, Carla told me that no one better mess with the people you love. She was right.”

“Something just came over me. That guy bamboozled the entire family for years. How did I not see that?”

“Because there was a whole lot of energy invested so that no one would see it. Hell, Zach, he may not have realized it himself.”

Silence.

“I just hope you didn’t break his jaw. I didn’t notice anyone taking pictures, thank God. He might press charges.”

“He ain’t pressin’ no charges.”

We sat in silence as I held the wrapped ice on his hand.

“What in the hell do I tell my sister?” he asked.

“You don’t!”

© 2018 by Sila Long