Home > All the Pretty Poses (Pretty #2)(4)

All the Pretty Poses (Pretty #2)(4)
Author: M. Leighton

I’m lost in thought, in memory, for what feels like an eternity before I realize that neither Karmen nor I have said another word. I shake my head to clear it and give her what I hope is a bright smile. “It was a long time ago.”

Karmen’s expression is pensive. And her mind is perceptive. “You loved him,” she observes.

My mouth opens to deny it, but the words don’t come out. It’s almost like my body won’t let me breathe such a betrayal, one that would minimize the pure hell I went through after he left. Yes, I loved him. With my entire soul, I loved him. And he left me. Just like that.

“As much as a young, naïve girl can love a guy like that, I suppose,” I reply, matter of fact.

“A guy like what?”

“Rich. Handsome. Privileged. Heartless.”

“Honey, guys like that are the easiest ones to love. Something in us wants to be the one to tame them, to be the one they change for. Maybe. Hell, I don’t know. I just know they’re the ones that are the most dangerous. From what I hear, our dear Pandora found that out for herself tonight.”

Still firmly road-blocked on memory lane, I’m barely paying attention to what she’s saying about Pandora. “Hmmm. And why is that?”

“She thought she’d snag her one of the big fish. According to her, she had a ‘run-in’ with the owner of the club, out in the men’s room. She found out the hard way, though, that guys like that are the way they are for a reason.”

I frown. “The owner?”

“Yeah. He doesn’t come here very often. I’ve only seen him one other time. But when he does come, he always makes a stir. Of course, a guy like that makes a stir wherever he goes. I mean, he is hot as Georgia in July, but men like him don’t change. Ever. For anyone.”

“She’s better off. He sounds like a beast. I mean, the bathroom for god’s sake?” I shake my head in disgust.

Karmen grins. “Oh, she wasn’t complaining about that part. She was just hoping for more. A guy like that makes all the girls hope.”

“Surely she’s making that up. I just don’t understand how something like that even happens. I mean, she was working!”

She shrugs one delicate shoulder. “Pandora takes ‘serving’ the VIP section to a whole new level.” Karmen laughs at her cleverness.

I sit up a little straighter in my chair, a terrible sinking sensation invading the pit of my stomach. “VIP section? Which table was this guy at?”

There’s only one man I know—only one man I’ve ever known—who can command this kind of attention. He commanded mine fourteen years ago. And he commanded it again tonight, even after nearly ruining my life.

“Two. You didn’t see him?”

Table two. The section where Reese was sitting. Although I’d like to think Karmen is talking about someone else, I know in my gut that she’s not.

“Yeah, I think I did.”

I close my eyes. I refuse—refuse—to give Reese Spencer one more ounce of heartache, one more millisecond of pain, one more drop of tears. I gave him enough fourteen years ago.


I’m grouchy as hell. Even less in the mood for my uncle’s funeral than I was last night.

I woke up with a raging hard-on. The same one I went to bed with. The one that I got from seeing Kennedy up on that stage. The one that the hot waitress who could suck a golf ball through a garden hose couldn’t get rid of last night in the bathroom. That hard-on.

Needless to say, I’m not looking forward to seeing my father. He’ll be attending, partially out of respect but mostly because of public perception. I’ll be attending because I loved my uncle. Probably more than I love my father, which is sad. Sad, but true.

The funeral is being held at Bellano, the home of my ancestors that lies in the outskirts of Chicago. It’s one of the few remaining undisturbed tracts of land. It’s worth a bloody fortune, but it will never be sold. As the eldest, my uncle inherited it and, today, we will learn who will be responsible for keeping it in the family through the next generation. I’m guessing it will be my father since Malcolm had no children.

I notice that the sparse trees that line the road leading to Bellano begin to thicken. It’s the first indication that the estate is close. Few trees turn into several, and several into many, until the road is nothing more than a thin line of asphalt cut into dense forest.

Up ahead, I see the gap in the vegetation and I press the brake to slow the car. I make a right turn and ease up to the wide wrought iron gates. The two halves that form an intricate S in the middle when closed now stand open, welcoming mourners to the site of Malcolm Spencer’s funeral.

I drive slowly along the winding path that leads to the main house. I spent many a summer here. Happy summers. Some of the best times of my life. Until my father put an end to it by sending me to college at Oxford.

As I begin up a slight incline, the main house comes into view. To most it looks imposing, what with its gray stone exterior and multiple turrets, but to me, it’s warm and inviting. Because my uncle lived here. And he was always good to me.

I park in the spot I used during my summer visits—to the left of the five-car garage, in the grassy space between it and the side entrance to the kitchen. When I cut the engine, I sit in the quiet for a few minutes, remembering all the times I pulled up in just such a way. I glance up at the kitchen window, half expecting Tanny, my uncle’s housekeeper, to be there watching for me, just like she always was. Today, however, the kitchen window is empty. My uncle is dead. And I’m sure Tanny got tired of waiting for me to come back.

I’m a little surprised at the pang of guilt I feel at the notion. I’ve spent the last dozen or so years perfecting the art of never being wrong and never feeling guilty. In a way, both of those are as much a mindset as they are a fact. At least to Spencer men they are. And Spencer men are never wrong. Which means we never have to feel guilty.

Until today. When I’m making my first trip back to Bellano in over a decade. I never came back. Because my father raised the perfect replica of a perfect bastard.


Swallowing the heavy feeling that something is lodged in my throat, I get out and make my way to the front door. I button my jacket as I walk through the foyer, noting that it smells exactly as it had the last time I was here—like pipe smoke. My uncle loved his pipe. And somehow, it suited him. Even the tobacco he favored suited him. It was a rich, warm scent. Homey. Welcoming. Much like him.

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