Chapter Four

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One drink.

For years I said that drink on the night my mother died would be my only drink for the rest of my life. I stuck to that vow through college and did so easily. No matter how illogical, and I knew it was, I'd attached drinking to death. It stayed that way all the way up until the night of my father's first debate. That's when I found out everything and absolutely nothing. Think that makes no sense whatsoever? It will, once you live the rest of that night with me...

*** THE PAST...

I squeeze into the back of the sedan next to the window with Tobey beside me and Danielle on the opposite side. Danielle glances at her phone and reads an address to the driver that isn't the hotel.

The car starts moving and I glance across Tobey to Danielle. "Where are we going?"

"A place where you can drown your sorrows," she says.

Tobey grimaces. "She doesn't drink. And she doesn't need to be a press magnet tonight." The driver halts us at the garage exit and Tobey leans forward and taps his shoulder. "Drop us back at the hotel." The driver nods and exits to the road. Goal achieved, Tobey eases back into his seat and flicks me a blue-eyed look. "The hotel has a bar. You can do your virgin routine there."

"She doesn't want to be a virgin for you, Tobey," Danielle snaps. "And clearly there's a reason you're going to be an attorney and I'm a fundraiser. I know what people need and want. You don't care. They have that flavored hookah vape stuff she likes at the place I'm taking her." She plants her hand on his leg, squeezes and leans forward to look at me across his lap. "You know I know you don't drink and why. You also know that I know what you need. It's the lower level in a five-star hotel, with tight security. The hookah and desserts, which means chocolate. I had to get special approval to get us in without a membership."

"What does that even mean?" Tobey demands, grabbing her hand, removing it from his leg, and turning to face me. "She knows why you don't drink? Is there more to you not drinking than dislike?"

"It's a control thing," I say, not sure if I should kick Danielle for her big mouth or kiss her for hookah and chocolate. "I can't risk being stupid drunk," I say. "You know that."

"But you can risk people thinking hookah is weed not tobacco?" he challenges. "And tobacco will kill you."

"Better me than someone else," I murmur, leaning forward to tap the driver on the shoulder. "Please continue to the bar and my apologies for our flip-flop."

"Do you know her at all, Tobey?" Danielle demands. "She uses the tobacco-free stuff. It's just like flavored herbs."

Does he even know me? No. He does not, and it seems tonight, Danielle has made it her mission to drive that point home to me and him.

***

Fifteen minutes later, we're at a place that is as perfect as Danielle had described. A place that combines business and pleasure, which translated to my father and his people's approval, should I have asked in advance. The door is well guarded. The music is a mix of modern and dated pop, all toned down to allow conversation. Once we're past security, we find the setup to be that of a giant aquarium with flat blue ceilings. There are stunningly wide and deep, often oddly shaped fish tanks built into concrete walls, as well as lining several walkways, that create privacy for tables.

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