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Sweet Southern Betrayal
By Robin Covington, Alethea Spiridon Hopson
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2014 Robin Covington
All rights reserved.
Teague loved Washington, DC.
He loved the city, the streets teeming with people at all hours of the day and night, the restaurants and bars, and the majestic man-made monuments and buildings created to intimidate enemies and inspire citizens.
But what he loved most was the power.
For the past seven years he'd risen in the ranks of Harrison & Duff, an international firm of the finest lawyers money could buy, and also earned a place at the table of power players in the DC political circuit. He was a fixer — the guy they brought in to handle the big issues, the problems that were seemingly impossible until he tackled them. And he was damn good at his job ... the best.
It felt so good to be back in DC, even if only for a couple of days. The Teague he had to be in Elliott was nothing like the man he was here. There were too many expectations and too much damage to repair after his father ran off with his paralegal and left clients high and dry. Yes, he had a plan and it had gotten him where he was today, but if the good people of Elliott knew how easy it was for him to shed the Southern gentleman image and maneuver with single-minded ruthlessness to his goal, they'd hold prayer meetings for him. But his servitude in his small town was almost over, and he was a few short weeks from being named the youngest partner in the firm. He was more than ready to take on that title, and everything that came with it.
The backing of the firm and key clients for his future political career.
Key clients like the man sitting across the table from him and his boss, Leland Duff, in the main conference room of H&D: Anthony Giambetti. The man was also known by other names — "Big Tony" and "The Boss" among his employees, and "The Fucking Bastard" by his enemies. Tony was a brilliant man, an expert strategist, and well-read for a man who had never been to college, but he was also a ruthless man who Teague knew ran his legitimate businesses with an iron fist.
His illegitimate businesses were not a concern of the firm or Teague — Tony had inside counsel for that work — a fact the mobster would like to change.
"Tony, I hope the issue with your nephew, Ricky Olivetti, is resolved to your satisfaction." Teague addressed the older man as he gathered his papers and shoved them into his legal binder.
"It is and I thank you," Tony said as he leaned on the table with his beefy arms. "My nephew is a fucking moron, but he's my sister's kid so ..."
Teague knew what he meant. Ricky was a fucking moron and he'd run into a little trouble with the liquor commission in Las Vegas and that made it impossible for him to work in his uncle's casino. It had taken Teague a few phone calls, a couple of favors, and a clever negotiation to get Ricky placed in a probationary status that allowed him to keep working.
"It was my pleasure to help out, Tony," Teague lied. He didn't do this kind of petty stuff anymore, but when one of the firm's biggest clients asked for someone by name the firm tried to grant the request. And since he still wasn't officially a partner, he'd dutifully fixed little Ricky's problem.
"I know this type of stuff isn't your usual work, but I knew you'd get it done."
"No problem. Just make sure Ricky follows through and he should be fine."
"I like your work, Teague, and that's why I'd like you to come work for me." Tony paused for emphasis. Teague had known this was coming, but he was surprised Tony was doing it in front of his boss, and he mentally gave Tony points for brass balls. "I could use a lawyer in DC to look out for my interests. I want the best. You are the best."
Leland jumped in before Teague could respond. His usual polished tone was edged with enough ire to let Teague know this was a total surprise to him, too. "Tony, I can't believe you're trying to steal him right out from under my nose."
Tony ignored him and kept his gaze on Teague, who was soaking in every word. He'd known this was coming — the increase in requests for him by name by Tony in the last six months, the private investigator he'd noticed following him a few times. A quick call to his best friend Jack Cantrell had informed him that Tony hired the guy. He didn't like being in the middle of the Giambetti family spotlight, but he wasn't spooked — yet. The firm regularly had him checked and followed. He was an investment and his actions outside the office were just as important as his work behind his desk, in court, or lobbying on Capitol Hill. A man like Tony couldn't be too careful about who was digging into his shit, and this was par for the course.
In the end, Teague wasn't interested in working for Tony, but only a fool wouldn't listen to the entire offer before making a decision. Teague was no fool.
"You've been handling stuff for me for a couple of years now and you won't be surprised that I've done my homework. You're the golden boy, the big swinging dick around here who makes things happen and lots of women happy, from what I hear. You're smart and know how to work every single fucking angle to my benefit. I know you've got political ambition, but I can offer you more than enough to make up for it."
Teague watched him. Something didn't add up here. If Tony wanted to really recruit him he'd never make a play in front of Leland — or would he? No. This was a test, and Teague was just going to have to play along until he figured it out.
"I appreciate the offer, Tony, but I'm good where I am," he said evenly, barely suppressing his laugh when he heard Leland sigh with relief. He decided to lighten the rejection. "I just don't think there's room for two big swinging dicks. We'd probably drive each other fucking crazy."
Tony huffed out a bark of a laugh. "Very true." He extended an open palm toward Leland, an obvious request for pardon, but the sincerity of the gesture didn't reach the hard line of his eyes. Tony was not happy with his answer. "I had to ask."
Teague decided to cut to the chase. This man had known what his answer would be before he posed the question. "What's got you worried, Tony?"
"Ah." Teague shifted back in his seat, hyperaware of the dark eyes staring him down as he thought of the best way to answer the unspoken question. "I would remind you that we have the protection of attorney/client confidentiality."
"That's not enough?" Teague locked eyes with Tony, making sure the other man heard him. The hair on the back of his neck stood at attention, screaming that danger lurked around every corner of this conversation. He wasn't afraid of Tony, but he knew better than to underestimate him. But Tony was worried about him and that was a dangerous place to be. "The work I do ... I deal in secrets. Nothing new. But I'll be honest, I'm not interested in knowing secrets about the stuff your corporate counsel handles."
What he left unsaid was the truth that probably worried Tony the most: he knew enough from the legitimate side of Tony's business empire to give any United States attorney more than enough to get a warrant to dig for the good stuff. Yes, he knew secrets and that's why he had duplicate files on thumb drives in his safe. He wasn't crazy enough to think that his luxurious office in DC protected him from men like Tony. Prudence dictated that you stay one step ahead of ruthless men, so Teague made sure he was five steps ahead.
"I appreciate that." Tony stared back, his lips a thin line of tension, but he nodded in understanding, if not agreement. "But you know that secrets, however small, are power."
"And you love that power."
"And so do you." Teague let that comment fall into the silence that stretched out a little too long for comfort. But he wasn't backing down from an obvious challenge. "Working for you wouldn't get me what I want."
Teague gave one small nod. "A different kind."
"Politics aren't where true power lies, Teague. When you figure it out, the offer stands."
"I appreciate it, but I'll pass."
"I'm not surprised, but you don't get what you want if you don't ask." Tony stood, signaling something to his security guy by the door with a quick glance and a head nod before turning back to Teague. When he extended his hand across the table Teague was surprised because the big man was not one for handshakes — he usually just left the room when he was done — but a piece of paper extended from his beefy fingers. "I understand that you'll be in my town for a few days to celebrate your sister's wedding, and I'd like to invite you and your buddies to be my guests at the Gold Coast Casino for an evening."
Teague reached out and took the piece of paper from Tony's hand. On it was scrawled a name and a phone number.
"That's the name of my VIP concierge. She'll set you up with anything and anyone you want while you're there."
Teague decided to forgo refusal or acceptance at this point and focused on what he was most curious about. "I'm curious how you knew about my plans. I just finalized them yesterday."
"Don't bullshit a bullshitter. My guy told me you spotted him weeks ago so you know I've had you followed. I've gotta keep an eye on people who've got their eyes on my stuff." Tony unapologetically shoved his huge arms into his leather jacket as he prepared to leave. "You've been stuck in the fucking middle of nowhere in that little town your family owns for a while now. You must be close to blowing your brains out. Come to Vegas. Gamble. See the show. Get laid."
Teague was a guy, so he couldn't suppress his body's interest at the last suggestion. It had been a while — too long — since he'd indulged in a nice long fuck with anything other than his hand. But he wasn't about to start something with a woman back home. Elliott women weren't the kind who understood that a night in their bed didn't mean anything more than a good time, and that a repeat wasn't a love connection or some other nonsense. It was sex, and good sex deserved a repeat. Nothing more. One day he'd look for the perfect Mrs. Elliott, but that wasn't today. And tomorrow didn't look good, either.
But a night with the boys, blowing off some steam with some liquor, food, and a beautiful woman, seemed like just the thing before he came back to DC permanently.
"Thanks, Tony. I appreciate the hospitality," he said with a smile as he slipped the paper in his pocket.
"Thank you for taking care of my moron nephew."
And then he was gone in typical Tony fashion. No good-bye. No backward glance.
"I can't believe he just offered you a job right in front of me," Leland said. Teague turned to look at his senior partner, surprised at the real anger causing Leland's "tennis court weekend" tan to redden. "And what was that shit at the end? I think he offered you a hooker."
"He's direct. I like that." While the DC game of reading between the lines of every conversation was enjoyable, it was nice to have someone be straightforward for a change. And Tony had been crystal clear. Teague pushed down the voice in his head that whispered he was more like Tony than he wanted to acknowledge.
"And you handled him like a pro. As always." Leland paused. Clearly, he didn't like how that had all gone down. "You know you have to take him up on the VIP offer."
"Yes, I know. He's a huge client and it would piss him off unnecessarily." Teague tried to curb the edge of frustration in his voice, but he knew he did a bad job of it when Leland's mouth got a little tighter at the edges. "Leland, what the fuck is that look? I know how to handle clients."
"Well, he's definitely handling you."
"What the hell are you talking about?"
"What was that little stunt with the job offer?" Leland fumed.
"What? You think I planned that with Tony?" Teague looked down on his boss, feeling the grip on his temper slipping. "I've worked my ass off for this firm, fixed every fucking problem you guys threw at me, and you think I'd resort to dramatics to secure my partnership? I don't need to play fucking games to get what I want. I'm the best. You know it. Tony knows it. The partnership committee knows it. End of story."
"You are a cocky son of a bitch."
"But I'm right. So cut the bullshit."
"Fine. But I didn't like all that crap about secrets and having you followed. Watch your step with him. As far as the firm is concerned, you're the next great thing and we wouldn't want you to get that pretty face messed up."
"Kiss my ass." Teague laughed, checking his watch to see if he had time to call one of his "friends" for a drink and get a head start on letting off some steam. He'd seen Olivia in the conference room earlier and she'd hinted she was free tonight.
Leland laid a hand on his shoulder to get his attention. "Well, just keep your ass out of the fire for a couple more weeks until the deal is done. You've passed the committee and your final background check, and now it's just a matter of paperwork."
"What kind of trouble do you think I can get into the next couple of weeks?"
"You're going to Vegas with those crazy men you've been friends with since the cradle. Booze. Gambling." Leland followed him out of the conference room and down the hall to the elevator. "You wouldn't be the first guy to wake up married to a stripper."
Teague turned, flashing his best grin at his boss. "Am I the kind of guy who would do that sort of thing?"
"Every guy with a functional dick has the potential to be that guy."
"Leland, you worry too much." Teague entered the elevator and took one last shot at his boss as the doors started their slow glide closed.
"I promise you I will not marry a stripper."CHAPTER 2
Elvis was wearing a diaper.
Teague Elliott clamped his eyes shut and groaned with the pain of those who realize they did this to themselves with a bottle of tequila and bravado fueled by the most evil Mr. Cuervo. He wasn't sure if the image of the King of Rock 'n' Roll was more or less painful than the percussion section practicing in between his ears, but both made him equally queasy. Taking another peek at the mural of the music icon dressed up as Cupid painted on the ceiling over the bed, he decided this was a question best solved in the bathroom.
Navigating his way through the large gold fake-Italian furniture and Elvis memorabilia, he didn't think it could get any worse until he flipped on the light switch and was blinded by the leopard-print wallpaper and metallic gold toilet, shower, and sink. Fighting down the decor-induced wave of nausea, he emptied his bladder and shuffled over to the sink to throw cold water on his face.
"What the hell were you thinking?" he asked his reflection. The answer was simple — he wasn't. The combination of his sister's wedding and the VIP concierge at the Gold Coast Casino was just too much for him to resist after the crazy fucking year he'd had. He'd known something like this was coming. A year of busting his ass to become the youngest partner at Harrison & Duff, coupled with the added burden of fixing the mess his father left in the wake of his midlife crisis, made this kind of night inevitable. Tequila and his three best friends in the city of sin made this detour to the wild side imperative.
He glanced down at his blessedly bare left-hand ring finger. At least he hadn't married a stripper. Leland would be pleased. Now he just needed to figure out where the hell he was, locate his friends Beck and Jack, and make sure he didn't miss his flight back to Virginia.
Leaning over to wipe the excess water off his face with a towel, he spied the wastebasket, his fuzzy brain taking a few seconds to process what was in there. Condom wrappers. Empty condom wrappers. He counted quickly — four to be exact — and he reached out to steady himself on the counter. Pride at being able to get it up four times last night battled with the realization that he had taken someone to bed and didn't remember it. Oh hell.
On shaky legs, Teague walked back into the bedroom and over to the bed, wondering how he'd missed the human-shaped lump still there. He walked around the huge, heart-shaped bed and took at look at the woman sleeping there. Hair the color of flame, skin the color of cream, and long, finely boned limbs. She was gorgeous.
Excerpted from Sweet Southern Betrayal by Robin Covington, Alethea Spiridon Hopson. Copyright © 2014 Robin Covington. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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