The Dealer

 Tate looked down and straight into the bluest pair of eyes he’d ever encountered. The first time he’d ever seen them, he’d barely been able to speak when they’d turned his way.

 Elizabeth Hauer stared back, her shocked gaze turning stormy and dark. “What the hell—”

 He immediately took her arm as if to steady her, giving it a hard squeeze. She winced and he spoke quickly, dropping his hand before she could say more. “Excuse me, miss. My bad. I should have knocked before I opened the door. Are you alright?”

 She put her fingers on the spot where he had grabbed her and rubbed it, parting her lips to speak again. When he moved his head the smallest amount, she frowned. But she understood—he could tell just by looking at her

 " I…I wasn’t expecting anyone myself,” she said with a confused frown. “It’s my fault. I’m sorry.”

     

 Brad slid in behind Elizabeth and put his hands on her shoulders. Tate saw her stiffen, just as she’d seen him shake his head. They knew each other’s bodies better than their own; he still dreamed about hers in his weaker moments. The long smooth legs, the gentle curve of her hip, the secret, hidden spots that he had kissed while she had groaned.

 

 Brad bent down and spoke, his lips brushing her hair as he introduced them. “Elizabeth, this is Tate Stone. He’s a new associate of mine. Tate, Elizabeth Hauer. Don’t mess with her. She’s my lawyer. She’d just as soon sue your ass as look at it.”

 Tate felt a jolt of surprise but he pushed aside his reaction and concentrated on the moment, hoping against hope Brad didn’t know anything about him and Elizabeth. God only knew what he’d do. To the casual observer, it might have seemed crazy to think Brad didn’t know about Tate and Elizabeth but he didn’t travel in the same moneyed circles Elizabeth did. He never had. In some ways, he was oddly unsociable, a misfit still, despite his bank account. “Thanks for the warning. I’ll be more careful in the future.”  Tate extended his hand. “Nice to meet you, Miss Hauer. I’m sorry I almost knocked you down.”

 She gripped his fingers, her hand fitting into the palm of his, skin against skin. The touch brought a bolt of memory of it; his body felt it even before it registered with his brain. He was the first to pull back.

“No problem at all,” she said.

 Tate watched her ease away from Brad without making it look that was what she was doing. “And now I really do have to be going… Nice to meet you, Mr. Stone.”

 Her heels clicked as she walked down the hall. Brad watched her leave and so did Tate. He couldn’t help himself. He hadn’t seen her in almost two years; it was too much to expect him not to stare. Elizabeth Hauer was as beautiful as ever.

 Brad’s laugh broke into Tate’s thoughts. “Don’t get your hopes up, Stone. She’s too good for the likes of you.”

Tate had certainly heard that sentiment before. Primarily from Elizabeth’s mother.

 “That’s fine,” he said. “She’s not my type. I like redheads with big curves. She looks like an icicle.”

 Tate entered the office and Raina pushed past him to follow Elizabeth out.

“I’m surprised you don’t know her,” Brad said. “Thought you knew all the shysters in town.”

 Tate cursed to himself. Brad was like that; You’d think he was barely paying attention then all at once, he’d question you. Did he know more than he was letting on? He wasn’t a subtle man, Tate reassured himself. If Brad knew about Tate’s relationship with Elizabeth, he would have said so. If nothing else, only to embarrass him.

 “Never seen her before,” Tate answered.

 He felt Brad’s gaze sharpen. “You sure?  You look like you saw a ghost."

 

 He was lying, of course, because nothing he told Brad was the truth, including this.

He’d seen a ghost all right. The ghost that had haunted him every day since she’d kicked him out of her heart two years ago.