The Perfect Husband

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"And why do you think the deal fell through?"

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"And why do you think the deal fell through?"

Justine and I are in the jet, about twenty minutes from takeoff to Miami, and I'm talking to David on my cell.

"Well..." he says, his voice hesitant.

"Is it because of that son of a bitch?" Something in my tone makes Justine's head snap up from her magazine and flash a concerned look. She's sitting in one of the tan leather seats, and I'm pacing the small aisle.

"I'd say it probably is."

I push out a breath. I don't even have to say the name for David to know who I'm talking about.

Jon Bates was a former business partner. We'd tried to break into South Florida's affordable housing market together. At first, we'd been successful—we'd gotten a $350-million contract to build housing for senior citizens. Not only was it lucrative, but it was also altruistic—who didn't want better and inexpensive housing for the elderly? I knew we could do the project right and give people a decent place to live in a city that's one of the most unaffordable in the nation.

Bates had been in charge of the construction contracts. Harvard-educated, he was five years older than me and looked like he would be more comfortable on a tennis court in New England, surrounded by the Kennedy family. He was as WASP-y as I was Cuban, and for a while, our differences worked in our favor.

But after the project was underway, I'd learned that his veneer was just that—a shell of lies. He hadn't graduated from Harvard; he'd merely taken a certificate course. His old-money attitude was also fake; he came from a middle-class family in Ohio. What he did have was charm in spades and the ability to talk himself into various situations. Which had served him well in Miami, where people didn't ask questions as long as you were making them money.

I did ask questions—too many. Suspicion mounted after I'd heard from various people in the industry that he was on the verge of doing shady things with construction contracts, government bond money, and tax credits. Things that would have gotten us both thrown into prison.

So I'd bought him out and righted the ship before disaster struck. It was only later that I found out how close the company was to being embroiled in scandal, and I could have lost everything because of the corrupt judgment of one shithead.

Bates, being the snake he is, had the balls to be offended that I'd released him from the project. Said I still owed him money and threatened to sue for defamation—something about how I'd tarnished his reputation in the community. I'd relished the chance to get him in court and show the world his unsavory business ethics, but so far, he hasn't filed shit, and I'd largely forgotten about him.

Trouble is, my association with him on that project had affected that branch of my company. Local governments hadn't given me one affordable housing contract since, and I'm now having trouble with getting approval for a luxury condo. Bates has connections with officials at all levels in Miami, which makes me wonder whether he's at the root of the lethargic pace of the permits. I'd been telling myself that it was just the Miami mayor's unwillingness to build more high-rises, but now I'm thinking differently.

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