Previously

Cool air greeted Monique as she entered Dave Summerville's living room. Dark eyes blinked when he dimmed the lights. Leaving Monique to fend for herself Dave went into his kitchen. The woman across the way reminded him of the wine that splashed into his glass; crisp, chilly, sensual and evocative. "Feel free to make yourself at home. I run a help yourself type place."

Carefully Monique tucked a strand of hair behind her ear debating whether she wanted to sit at the end of the couch or on the love seat next to it. After Dave was seated on the far side of the couch she perched on the other end. "Thanks for giving me a ride back. You don't have to come to the zoo tomorrow either."

"We can't let your niece and nephew down." The edge of his glass touched the rim of hers before he took a drink. "If Brad promised Connor and Olivia a trip to the zoo then that's where we'll go." Monique yawned, stretched and shivered against the back of the couch. "I shouldn't have stayed out so late. I'm going to regret this tomorrow."

Admiring green eyes followed the contours of her body as she moved. "Let me know when you're ready and I can give you a ride back home. Or you can spend the night here. There's clean sheets on the bed in the guest bedroom and," the grin on his face was boyishly cute. "I know I have an extra toothbrush."

Drowsily Monique leaned her head back wishing she could read the microwave clock. "I'm okay. Or I will be in a minute. As soon as I wake up from my nap. What are you going to do if I fall asleep on your couch?"

"Put a blanket on you and head upstairs. Help yourself to whatever's in the fridge if you get up before I do. Did you have a good time tonight?" Another shiver ran through Monique. "It was a side of Brad I've never seen before." Her head found a resting place on her hand. In the semi-darkness Monique smiled again. "When Brad told me he had an uncle who wore jeans and rode a Harley to work I'm afraid I didn't believe him."

"That’s okay. I didn't believe Gretchen when she told me Brad had met the woman of my dreams either." Quickly Monique glanced at the man next to her. If she put her head down she could rest it next to his leg. Impulsively she smiled at him. "You are not what I expected at all." Smiling at her was an automatic reaction. So was resting his arm on the back of the couch. "You can sit next to me you know. My teeth are clean and I don't bite that hard."

"Did you really throw a dry erase marker at Brad in the middle of a meeting?" Monique inquired impishly.

"I have lunch meetings. When lunch is over so is the meeting. If you would have been there you would have thrown something at him too. No one but Brad gives a damn about how some mutual fund went up a tenth of a percentage point. My God."

"I helped him put that presentation together. You should be more appreciative of our hard work." Monique chided him. Dave reached for his glass before replying. "If it would have been you up there droning on about fund performance I would have kept my markers to myself."

"I used to work for a stockbroker. I learned a lot working for that son of a bitch." The caustic comment had Dave smiling again. "One of my ex-wives used to work for a broker that she later married. He really was a son of a bitch. He left her with nothing when they got divorced."

"How many ex-wives do you have?"

"Two. One of them liked sleeping with my partner better than she liked sleeping with me. The other one, she's the one who was married to the stockbroker, they had a daughter together and she thought she might want to have more kids but then she changed her mind. I still miss her."

Dejectedly Monique sank further into the couch. Discussing Dave's ex-wives had not been on her agenda. "What do you miss about her?"

"I'd like to be friends with her again. She goes out to lunch with Brad but she doesn't talk to me."

"Brad goes out to lunch with a lot of people doesn't he?"

"Lunch dates are his thing. His calendar is full of lunch dates."

"Brad took me out to lunch a couple of times. He took Cassandra and the kids out too. I like going out to lunch."

"I'll take you out to lunch." The way he said made Monique realize that lunch with Dave would be a lot more interesting than going out to eat with Brad. Cautiously she considered edging closer to him while he spoke. "Give me a call and let me know when you'll be free." Her soft round shoulder was close enough to touch but Dave kept his hands to himself as he listened to the woman across from him. Her next words made him wish she had fallen asleep instead of continuing the conversation. "Can I talk to you about something?"

Uneasily Dave reached for his glass. "I guess so. What's on your mind?"

"I'm not trying to get anyone into trouble but is Brad’s brother having an affair?" The word affair brought a bitter twist to Dave's mouth. "He better not be. What makes you ask?"

"Brad sent his brother's wife's diary to my sister. There were some pictures inside of it and in one of the pictures Brent has his arm around his wife and in another he's kissing someone else. So I wondered what was going on." Monique's explanation relieved most of Dave's tension. Pictures of Brent kissing people were everywhere. "Brent kisses a lot of people. I've had friends of his kiss me. That’s just the way he is."

"In the picture he's lying on the couch and kissing someone." Monique said stubbornly. "His hand is blocking the camera but you can still see them."

"I'd have to see the picture but Brent has been kissing women for as long as I've known him which is his entire life. He's affectionate."

"They're both almost naked in the picture." The rest of the wine filled Monique's glass. Obviously he wasn't taking this seriously or he wouldn't be so patronizing. She gave his explanation half an ear. "Brent has some wild parties at his place. Right now Brent's brother-in-law is in trouble for escorting a woman who took her shirt off at a party of Brent's. She tried to claim that Brent raped her but now she's bringing assault and battery charges against DJ. Everyone who was at the party is willing to testify that Brent never touched the woman but DJ put his hand on her shoulder and marched her out the door so now he's in trouble."

"I have the pictures if you want to see them." Smiling to herself Monique pulled an envelope out of her purse. "I want to know what's going on. I won't say anything to anyone else." Across the room Dave made the lights brighter before resuming his seat. The first picture had Brent in between Fern and DJ. Brent's arms hung around both of them. Three beautiful people were smiling three gorgeous smiles.

"That is his wife isn't it?" Monique asked pointedly. Dave nodded while he studied the picture. Everyone in it looked happy. "That's her. Her brother DJ is on Brent's left." Decisively Dave put the first picture behind the second. A kissing couple he recognized was stretched out on the couch. Neither of them were clothed from the waist up.

"You see why I wondered what was going on?" Monique asked quietly. Dave held the picture up before setting both pictures on the trunk he used as a coffee table. "You can stop worrying about Brent having an affair because that's a picture of Brad. Where did you get these pictures?"

"Brad sent them to my sister. I told you that."

"The hell he did." Dave declared. "I work with Brad, he's my nephew and I know him. He did not send anyone these pictures."

"I was there when Cassandra got the package." Exasperation made her voice shrill. "Doesn't his brother live out in Seattle? That was the return address on the package."

"That doesn’t mean that Brad sent it. I want to know what the fuck is going on here."

"Don't be mad at me. I was just curious." Hard green eyes pinned her against the couch. "You had no right to snoop in things that don't belong to you. Christ Monique. What were you thinking?"

"I thought Brent was having an affair."

"Even if he was that isn't your concern. And now I'm glad you know that he's not. Is that what Cassandra thinks?"

"I didn't talk to her about it. She got a package and she was snotty about it when I asked who it was from. My grandma used to give us journals when we were little. It was an inside joke between us so when she got one I thought I would tease her about it. Olivia wanted to color in it and I knew Cassandra wouldn't care so I let her have it. Olivia opened it up and the pictures fell out. So it really wasn't me snooping in anything."

They were sitting next to each other but the romance of the evening had fled. Dave didn't owe Monique an explanation but he wanted her to understand why he was upset. "Today Gretchen called me up and asked if I wanted to have people over for Brad's birthday. During that conversation she told me she wants to go out with him. She's wanted to go out with Brad for a long time and my guess is he'll never go out with her partly because she used to go out with Brent. It was a long time ago but no one has forgotten about it mainly because Brent was such a wreck after she broke up with him. Gretchen didn’t get invited to Brent's wedding and I think she should have been. You might not like her but Gretchen is a nice girl and Brent owes her a couple of apologies she'll probably never get. She would be crushed if she saw that picture of Brad."

The picture of Brad kissing another woman captured Monique's voyeuristic attention. "Are you sure that's a picture of Brad?"

"I'm positive. Brent wouldn't care who took a picture of him. We have tons of pictures of him kissing other women. Hell, we probably have pictures of him kissing some male friends of his. Not only that I recognize Brad. That is not a picture of Brent." His words were convincing but Monique was skeptical. "How can you tell? They both look the same to me."

"I can tell just by looking at the picture. If you need proof Brent has a tattoo on his left arm and Brad doesn't." He held the picture higher. No tattoo marred the arm in the picture. Monique's attention moved from Brad to the woman he was with. "Who's the girl?"

If Dave wouldn't have seen the picture he wouldn't have believed it existed. Why had Brad sent pictures and a diary to Monique's sister? Dave had no reason to doubt Monique but he wanted an explanation. "No one you know."

"Brad never kissed me like that. I'm impressed he got the girl's shirt off all by himself."

"If you knew the girl you'd be doubly impressed. I'm almost inclined to think that this is some sort of a joke. I have a hard time believing that Brad would be fooling around on the couch when anyone with a camera could walk by and take a picture. His hand is blocking the picture but still. That doesn't make sense to me."

"I was wondering about that earlier. Who do you think took the picture?"

"I don’t know but I'm going to try and find out." Monique had to move before he could get his cell phone out of his left hand pocket. Enviously Monique watched his fingers move over the touch screen. "You're not calling Brad are you?" Dave shook his head, stood up and went back into the kitchen. Less than a minute later he had Brent's voice in his ear. "Hey."

"Hey Tiger. This is Dave. How are you?" Rain streaked down the window of Brent's hotel room when he pulled the curtain aside. "Not too bad. What's new with you?"

"I'm good." Dave decided not to mention that Monique was sitting on his couch listening to his every word. "I heard your game got called on account of rain."

"Yeah. Not that I would have played anyways. How're things at Summerville Dentistry?" Now that he had his nephew on the line Dave regretted the hasty call to Brent. Waiting for Monique to leave would have been a better idea. "You sound like you've had better days kid. Your brother hasn't been himself lately either. You guys didn't get into a fight did you?"

"He sent me a text message earlier today." Brent winced as lightning split the sky. Rain fell fast and furious against his window. "Gretchen is mad because I tried to help these people who were looking for a condo. That's what Brad’s message was about." Inwardly Dave cursed. He liked Gretchen but she was an irresolvable conflict where Brad and Brent were concerned. This time Dave sided with Brent. "I told Gretchen I'd rather live on the beach than across from it. Ultimately homeowners have to decide where they want to live."

"I guess so." Still fully clothed Brent lay down on his bed. "I can hardly wait to go out with her parents." While Dave respected Greg and Gloria Schwartz he could understand where Brent was coming from. "Tell them you'd rather not get together."

"It's easier to go see them. Then they can feel like they did their duty while they were on vacation."

"You sound bummed. What's the matter?" Talking seemed to require more energy than Brent had at the moment. But he knew if he didn’t talk then Dave would tell his parents something was wrong wtih him. "Nothing really. I'm just tired."

"I won't keep you then. I was just calling to see if you knew what was up with Brad. You take care of yourself Tiger. Get some rest. You'll feel better in the morning." But Brent was reluctant to let his uncle go. Hearing his voice reminded him of home. "I haven't talked to Brad since he was out here. How's he doing?"

"I had some people over and we went out for your birthday. How's your shoulder doing?"

"It's better. I got a massage and that really helped. Fern is coming down tomorrow so she'll take care of me." Casually Dave rested his arm against the back of the couch. From there Monique's shoulder was an easy reach. "How's Fern doing?"

"She's good. Her parents are coming out the week after next so she's stressed about that." Desperately Brent wished he was back at home. In his own room. Listening to music and having his mother yell at him because his room wasn't clean. Thinking of his own mother reminded him that his sister would be giving birth in another nine months. He'd probably miss that event too. "How's Natalie doing?"

When Monique moved closer to Dave he pulled a throw blanket down from his chair for her. Brent sounded depressed so Dave made an effort to keep things positive. "She's doing well. Ryan is excited about the baby and your parents are excited to be grandparents. We went over to Natalie and Ryan’s for breakfast this morning. Rita made eggs and Ryan made biscuits and gravy. I know you don't like pork but those biscuits were good. Can I talk to you about something?"

"Whatever it is I didn't do it." That comment was more like the Brent Dave was used to. Having Monique next to him was nice as well. He could get used to sitting on the couch with her. "I didn't think you did. I saw a picture of Brad and I was wondering who took it."

"Fern took some pictures when he was out here. I took a couple and Lana took some. What's he doing in the picture?"

"He's kissing Lana and neither of them are wearing shirts. What the heck is going on with the two of them?"

"Fern bet that Brad couldn't get Lana's shirt off using only one hand. I came home and everyone was sleeping in the basement until I went downstairs and woke them up. I'm pretty sure I was the only sober person there."

"How did his shirt get off?"

"Lana wanted to see how hard it would be to take a shirt off with one hand." Tiredly Brent rubbed his eyes. How could he be tired from doing nothing? "At the time it was funny."

"I knew Brad wouldn't be kissing someone when just anyone could walk by."

"That shows what you know." Brent said with a smirk. "I have a video of Brad kissing Lana." Dave's earlier conversation with Gretchen echoed in his mind. Two sisters fighting over one man wouldn't end with everyone living happily ever after. "How'd you get that?"

"I told him to kiss her and make it hot. Jim and Rita will be so happy when their shitty shortstop turns porn king. Brad could make a lot of money kissing Lana. I'm not that great with a camera and the video turned out well." Distractedly Dave listened to what his nephew was saying. Currently Monique's toes were more interesting than what Brent had to say. "I didn't know Lana had plans to visit you guys."

"I didn't either. She showed up one day and Brad showed up the next. He left without saying goodbye to me and she left without saying goodbye to anyone. He was on the phone with Gretchen the night before Lana left. How much do you want to bet that conversation is why Lana left early?"

"Brad and Gretchen have been friends for a long time. Just like you and Lana have."

"Friends build each other up Dave. They don't play mind games with other people and they don't call late at night when other people are out having fun. A really good friend is going to be honest about what they want and they're going to help you self actualize as well. Gretchen wants to get married and Brad has more money than almost anyone else she knows."

"I know you and Gretchen don't get along but she is Brad's friend. What would help is if you and Gretchen both could put the past behind and move forward. This is getting ridiculous."

"She's ridiculous. Gretchen knows that Lana likes Brad and Brad has told her he's not interested in what she has to offer. If this was a guy pursuing a girl he'd be a labeled a stalker."

"I think Brad and Gretchen would be a good couple. Lana isn't around, she doesn't want to get married and he does. Anyways, it'd be nice if everyone I knew could get along with everyone else. I'll talk to you later Tiger. Good luck with the finger and the shoulder."

"Thanks for calling. And I have tried to get along with Gretchen. I wouldn't be stuck meeting her parents if I was the uncooperative one." Resentment further blackened his mood. He went out of his way to be nice to Schwartz's and they still treated him like he was the bratty neighbor kid. Gloria was okay but Dr. Schwartz was a pompous prick. Briefly Brent wondered why he had been so afraid of him when he was younger. Meanwhile Dave was thinking that Monique had smooth soft skin. "Tell Greg and Gloria I said hi. Gretchen knows you don't want to be meeting them."

"They're fine. I really don't give a damn either way. Have a nice life. Hope things go well for you and Summerville Dentistry. Tell Brad to give me a call if he wants to chat."

"I will. You hang in there Tiger. Get some rest. Tell Fern I said hi, let me know what she wants for your anniversary."

"Right. Will do. Bye." Waves of exhaustion made the room around him blurry. Brent knew he should get up and get ready for bed and he would. In another minute. When he had more energy. Dave set his cell phone on top of the magazine he was using as a coaster before he leaned back. Next to him Monique shivered as his hand moved up and down her arm.

"I guess Brad and Lana got drunk and ended up kissing on the couch." Dave explained. "Brent doesn't sound good either. Normally he's so talkative you can hardly keep up with what he's saying."

"Brad and Cassandra were talking about affairs. He talked to me about it too. It made me wonder who he was talking about and then when I saw the picture I thought I knew."

"Can you do me a favor?" The spot where his arm had been lost heat to the surrounding air. "What's that?"

"Can we not talk about Brad for the rest of the night?" Monique's lower lip trembled when his finger raised her chin. "What should we talk about then?" Later that same evening it occurred to her that kissing him didn't require any discussion at all.

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