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R. K. Lilley


  Title Page




  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen







  Copyright © 2014 R.K. Lilley

  All rights reserved.

  ISBN-13: 978-1-62878-012-3

  All rights reserved. This book may not be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance of events to real life, or of characters to actual persons, is purely coincidental. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction.



  I’d started writing everything about her down. I didn’t want to forget.

  The color of her hair. The depth of her eyes. The stubborn shape of her jaw. The way her lips shaped words with such expression. The way her voice made my chest ache. The way she gave advice beyond her years.

  The way she listened like she cared about every word.

  The way she made me feel—Alive.

  Every curve and hollow of her body was recorded, in my mind, and now my hard drive.

  There was a bit of truth in every lie, and even if it had only been fed to me in the smallest increments, I wanted, needed to remember the real Iris.

  Because in the end, there was one irrefutable thing that he couldn’t deny.

  Hostage or hustler, sinner or saint, whatever she was or wasn’t, whether she lied to my face or taunted me with hints of the truth, all of this seemed always to defer to the more pertinent fact at hand.

  She was mine.




  After yet another shocking discovery, followed by a disturbing letter, Dair is almost certain Iris has left his life for good. He tries his best to move on.

  Easier said than done, and when an unexpected and dangerous opportunity arises for him to find out what happened to her, he doesn’t hesitate to take it.

  As usual, with Iris, the answer leaves him more lost than the question.

  Every revelation is shrouded in mystery, and every disclosure leaves Dair more in the dark than ever.

  And when finally, the messy truth is revealed in its entirety, will he be ready for it?

  This is the final installment in Iris and Dair’s story

  This book is intended for readers 18 and up.























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  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 plannin
g 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.

  He shook his head, giving me a mock pitying grimace. “And you, you poor bastard, you’ve fallen for some wild young thing who was only taking her daddy issues out on your enthusiastic cock.”

  “I have to say, I never thought I’d fall for someone again. Didn’t think I had it in me.” I saw his raised brows. “Oh stop. You’re one to judge. The notion of being in love and staying in love, the idea that two people can get so wrapped up in each other, and have that be a sustainable feeling, I don’t know, I just lost the belief in it somewhere.”

  “That’s fucking depressing, man. What the fuck? And, hello?! It doesn’t take a detective to figure out where you lost it.”

  I blinked at him, waiting for him to continue.

  He grinned, clearly about to say something outrageous. “In your ex-wife’s stingy, slutty pussy, is the subtle point I’m trying to portray.”

  The stunned look on my face seemed to prompt him to add, “You lost your belief in romantic love after twenty years in that bitch’s used up snatch.”

  “That is so fucked up,” I gasped.

  I couldn’t stop shaking my head and laughing.

  The man had no filter, either to his twisted brain or his outrageous mouth.

  “Turner, you’ve got Pepper on line one!” Candy shouted from the other room.

  He rolled his eyes. “You want to talk about fucked up. Here’s some fucked up. Pepper is an old assistant, calls me at least once a week, to tell me that I lost out when I ended things with her. I shit you not, she’d lecture me for hours, every week, if I let her. Watch this.”

  He put the phone to his ear, listened for a few beats, then said, “Candy could use some of your advice. Want to talk to her?” He put his hand over the mouthpiece, yelling, “Candy! Pepper on line one for you!”

  Candy let out an undignified screech in the other room. “You fucker!” she shouted, but then, mere seconds later, I could hear her talking on the phone to what I could only assume was Pepper.

  Turner was grinning. “Works every time. Women love to turn on each other.”

  “Pepper? Why’s she called Pepper?” I asked.

  “Trust me on this: You don’t want to know.”

  I did trust him on that. Ironically, I’d come to trust him about a good number of things.

  Turner had turned out to be a good friend to me, and he was always a great distraction, but as soon as I was alone again, I went back to obsessing about Iris.

  How could you be in love with a person you didn’t really know? Someone that had fed you nothing but lies?

  Someone you knew with certainty you couldn’t trust?

  I was of two minds on the subject, one telling me you couldn’t, or at the very least, that it was an idiotic thing to do.

  The other was unmindful of logic, uncaring of consequences, so long as I could have the thing I needed.

  The woman I needed.

  And this train of thought was beyond useless, because in the end, everything was out of my control, including my own heart.



  I was just getting home from the gym when I got an unexpected call from the photographer, Lourdes. I didn’t have anything scheduled with her, so I knew it was a social call.

  We chatted amiably for a bit, and I found myself asking her out for a cup of coffee the next day. The question just sort of came out, and she accepted, her tone warm and friendly.

  After I hung up, I wondered what the hell was wrong with me.

  But I didn’t cancel, and I found myself meeting her the next afternoon.

  We talked for hours.

  We had so much in common. On paper, we’d be perfect together.

  Also, she was a knockout in every sense of the word. Just stunning.

  She had natural, tan golden skin and dark, mysterious eyes that were alluring and exotic. I remembered her mentioning something to me a while back about being half Spanish, half French, and she favored the former, looks-wise.

  She had a slight accent that I couldn’t quite place, and that she said was mixed, because she’d done so much traveling and living abroad. It gave everything she said a sultry vibe.

  She was a year older than I was, but her face was unlined. She was one of those ageless women that drove other women crazy.

  Needless to say, Tammy had always hated when I did photo shoots with her.

  She wore a white sundress with a wide collar and flirty hem that showed off her tan cleavage and legs to perfection.

  She was a gym devotee, like myself, and it showed in every lithe, toned inch of her. She didn’t overdo it, though, managing to keep her feminine curves, along with the muscles.

  We even used the same gym, though she went at night, and I preferred the morning. We talked about working out together sometime, but both of us knew that if we did, it wouldn’t be a regular occurrence.

  You didn’t mess with someone’s workout schedule.

  The very idea was sacrilege, we joked.

  I’d been a developing a real, honest to God adult crush on her before Iris had come along and scrambled all sense out of my brain.

  Now I found that, no matter how good Lourdes and I were on paper, I just couldn’t see myself getting romantically involved with anyone any time in the near future.

  Regardless of the absence of its desire, my heart was already involved elsewhere.

  “How are your boys?” I asked her.

  She had two sons, the oldest twenty, the youngest eighteen. They were her pride and joy, and she smiled fondly at the question.

  “Very good, in general. Both are attending UNLV, though my youngest, Gustave, isn’t sure what he wants to study. That’s normal, though, right, for a freshman?”

  I wasn’t the one to ask about that, as I’d known that I wanted to be an author since I was six years old, but I figured she wanted a general answer, as opposed to a specific one. “Completely normal, I’m sure. Are they talking to their dad yet?”

  She’d shared with me before that her sons hadn’t spoken to their father since she’d separated from him, well over a year ago.

  She bit her lip and shook her head. “No. They’re holding firm. Both of them swear they never want to see him again. I’m not sure what to do about it. I can’t stand my ex-husband, but I’ve never spoken a bad word about him to them. Not one harsh word. In fact, they only heard why we were getting divorced because of him, and he told them about it because he was trying to turn them against me. My oldest, Rafael, beat the shit out of him for it.”

  I blinked. This was the first time I’d heard about that part of it. I knew her ex had cheated on her, knew we had that in common, but she’d never given me specifics. “Why would he use him cheating as a way to turn them against you?”

  She flushed, suddenly looking extremely uncomfortable. “I don’t want to tell you. You’ll think I’m a psycho.”

  Of course that had me twice as intrigued. “Well, now you have to tell me.”

  “Promise you won’t judge me?” she asked, chewing on her lush lower lip.

  “Promise. I told you about my ex-wife deep throating her new fiancé in my entryway story, so it’s only fair.”

  She grimaced. “That’s true. But you didn’t go crazy on her when you saw it, right?”

  “I didn’t. I left for a few days, then cam
e back, kicked her out of my house, and filed for divorce.”

  “That’s a perfectly reasonable response. Mine wasn’t that. Not even close.”

  She paused, and I just kept watching her expectantly.

  “Well, first I should mention that it was Valentine’s Day when I caught him.”

  “What an ass,” I put in.

  “Yes. What an ass. He butt dialed me on Valentine’s Day, right as he happened to be screwing my ex-best friend. I heard it all, recognized his voice and hers, calling each other by name, caught all of the noises. Everything. Sadly, it was a very good connection.”

  “Wow,” I mouthed.

  “Yeah. Wow. So he comes home, a bit later, acting like nothing happened, like he’d done it a hundred times, which I’m sure he had. He came into the house and went straight to the shower, which, after I thought about it, he’d done a lot over the years.”

  I grimaced, wondering how many times Tammy must have cheated on me before I had a clue.

  “So I grabbed the Fabuloso and sprayed it all over the smooth marble of the bathroom floor.”

  I bit my lips to keep from smiling.

  She nodded, seeing that I knew where this was going. “Yes. He stepped out of the shower and went flying, cracked his head on the counter, and ended up on his ass on the floor, naked. That’s when I took a belt to him, buckle first.”

  She nodded again when she saw my eyes widen. “Yes, I know. Psycho move. I beat the shit out of him, then kicked him out of my house, naked. At least neither of the boys were around, so they didn’t know until he told them.”

  I started laughing.

  “And then your oldest beat him up.”

  “Yeah. Took him to town. Got his ass kicked twice, once by a girl, the other by his own son, and then I divorced him. You think I’m psycho now, don’t you?”