TEN

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A little foam was all that remained of his Guinness when Bruce shoved his glass in front of Louis, who was playing bartender with the beer taps. Adam and Ben were sitting to Bruce's right, Steve on the left, the four of them unwinding alongside each other at the bar in the living room after a week of long days and broken nights. Not that any of them were complaining. In fact, they were all getting a good laugh as Louis relayed the story of Enzo's arrest that had gone down at a local restaurant. Bruce was so caught up in the tale, the sound of the front door opening and closing barely registered in his mind.

Louis grabbed up the glass and started a pour as he went on with, "The idiot bolted, tripping into the table beside him, knocking wine into the lap of the woman sitting there. She called him 'asshole.' He told her to 'shut-the-fuck-up.' " Louis's shoulders shook as he chuckled. "He really should have taken a gander at her date, though. The guy was an ex-con with a monster build and a temper to match. He lifted Enzo up and threw him to the cops."

A murmur of approval swirled among them.

"So then the guy—"

"Who's watching her?" The deadly edge to Mark's voice carried all the way across the room, making Louis cringe and the rest of them stare forward like they were back in grade school and the principal was walking up behind them.

Louis looked at each of their faces as if to warn, Get out now while you still can. "Walt, called," he finally said. "He's staying the night with her."

Bruce went rigid. What the hell? He'd assumed the brother had come home early.

Apparently, it was news to the rest of them too. All eyes shot to their boss's face, seeing it turn to stone before the briefcase was thrown on the bar and the man stalked off to his bedroom. The door was slammed so hard, the glasses in the rack above their heads rattled. The men looked at each other, a mutual, unspoken acknowledgement of, Fuck, that's gotta hurt.

Bruce muttered something under his breath—he wasn't sure what—before walking to the hall and heading upstairs.

The rest of Louis's story went untold.

)l(

Virginia picked up the scattered toys and books and placed them inside the wooden chest sitting in the far corner, well aware of Walt watching her. Between the confrontation with the Stones and the subsequent foot chase on the streets, her nerves were shot, and Walt wasn't helping by bringing the subject up every five seconds. Cleaning provided a normalcy that calmed her.

"If they know you saw them . . ." Walt said, letting the implication speak for itself.

Virginia looked over as she closed the lid. "So?" She frowned. "What's the big deal?"

He had insisted on following her home. She had agreed, only because she sensed he would do it anyway, given the extra attention she'd been getting lately. Now he was asking to spend the night, and she wasn't comfortable with the idea . . . although Janine would be coming through the door at any moment, and her safety was the priority. Maybe it was best to be cautious. "Fine, if it makes you feel better, you can sleep on the couch."

"The couch?" His gaze dropped down to the one piece of furniture she'd kept from her old house, and drifted along its length. He was a big guy, and the couch would better suit a woman—a tiny woman at that.

"Paul doesn't come home until tomorrow, but that room is full of his files. Otherwise, I'd offer it to you."

The look on his face told her that wasn't exactly what he'd had in mind, either.

"I'll make some tea." She headed for the kitchen, hoping the subject was settled.

There was a rustle behind her, and she glanced over her shoulder, surprised to find him so close.

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