Chapter 2

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"Tell me something I can hold onto forever and never let go." "Let go." - The Age of Adaline, in theaters April 24

Just like anyone who’d indulged in currently forbidden pleasures, I woke up to a sobering discovery the next day when I was leafing through the newspaper. I was eating a very late breakfast early in the afternoon, still clad in my nightgown and robe. There was an article on the second page, next to a grainy photograph of a man in profile captured in passing. One had to look closely and know him well enough to make the connection but his face had been burned into my memory from the night before that I couldn’t mistake the man in the photograph to be anyone else but Brandon.

Mysterious Magnate Shuts Down Another Saloon, the title said.

The man referred to only as B. Maxfield, owner of the manufacturing giant Maxfield Industries, was described as a reclusive sort, having removed himself even further from society after the death of his father five years ago. In the last year or so, his name had been appearing on checks for sales brokered by a middleman, buying out various illegal establishments only to promptly shut them down. He was not directly linked to the Bureau of Prohibition. Instead, the paper was calling it a personal vendetta of some kind, referencing the death of his father at the hands of a mugger who’d shot him when he tried to rescue an elderly woman.

The bastard is on a mission—a suicide mission. I’ll be damned if he wants my help with it.

I was all for good intentions but the world didn’t look the same from where Brandon sat on his throne. It was a lot more dangerous and unforgiving. Justice appeared more in books than it did in the streets around here. I had decades of seeing it first-hand and surviving it. And if I wanted to keep surviving, the last thing I needed was Brandon’s cause drawing me into a dangerous web where I could get caught.

When he reappeared at The Magnolia later that evening, smiling at no one else but me, my heart plunged into the icy depths of my stomach. It was a while before I realized that I’d held my breath until I was able to make my way to him, doing my best to be casual so to not draw attention.

“What can I get you, handsome?” I asked in the exact script I gave every male customer as I did with Brandon the night before.

This time he smiled at me, broad and bright that the transformation of his face caught me off guard. The smile softened the sharp lines and planes of his profile and lit up those burnished gold-green eyes.

What’s that? Oh. The sound of my heart leaving my body and making its way to the palm of his hand.

“Is there somewhere private I can secure and enjoy the exclusive use of your company this evening?” he asked, those same hypnotic eyes sparkling with humor I would’ve never imagined he possessed the night before.

But he’s just as full of himself, isn’t he?

I arched a brow. “Yes, there is. You can find it if you go straight through the back and up the spiral staircase. It opens to the back alley where the garbage is. You’ll find yourself right at home there after I toss you out on your condescending ass which I hope gets bruised.”

Brandon leaned forward, his small chuckle low and husky. “You’re not helping matters here by making me want kiss that tart mouth of yours, Charlotte. I just want to be alone with you. I assumed the accommodations I implied are available here.”

I gave his toe a discreet kick. He may be right but he could be subtle with it. “This is a saloon, not a brothel.”

“Doesn’t mean paid pleasures don’t exist here,” he answered quickly, the light in his eyes flaring with anger. “I’ve been to enough of these places to know.”

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