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Marcus Sullivan was a man on a mission.
Twenty minutes ago he’d left his brother’s engagement party and headed straight for the belly of San Francisco’s seedy Mission district. Dance music pounded out into the street, loud enough that the crowds waiting in line were already dancing.
Leather and piercings, tattoos and fluorescent hair weren’t part of Marcus’s usual crowd. But the men and women in line with earrings through their noses and eyebrows looked happy, at least.
Marcus was planning on being a hell of a lot happier in a couple of hours.
He walked past the long line and despite the fact that he was wearing a suit and tie, the bouncer took one look at him and opened up the latch on the rope to let him in. Marcus was a large man, and although he didn’t often use his size to intimidate people, he wasn’t averse to using whatever tools he had at his disposal when he needed them.
The beat throbbed through him as he stepped through the black doorway into the crowded club, but the loud music, the shaking lights, didn’t come close to obliterating his thoughts.
That wasn’t why he was here. He wasn’t here to forget what he’d seen.
No, he didn’t want to forget, wouldn’t let himself make that mistake again.
Marcus was here to make up for two wasted years. Twenty-four months ago, he’d met Jill in the city on a hot August night at a charity event her firm was hosting. As soon as he’d set eyes on her cool blonde beauty, he knew he’d found the missing puzzle piece in his otherwise well-ordered life. In Jill, he’d seen his future: marriage, kids, Estate dinners at his winery with the perfect wife by his side.
Only, as he’d learned that afternoon, it hadn’t been perfect at all...
Marcus could hear moaning even as he turned his key in the lock to Jill’s apartment. It could have been a movie turned up too loud for the dirty parts, but Marcus knew better—had known better for months, if he was being honest with himself.
He pushed open the door and moved through his girlfriend’s apartment, the moaning growing louder with every step he took.
“Oooh, that’s it! Right there! Just like that!”
Jill had always been a screamer in bed, but he’d never realized just how false it sounded until now, when he was getting a taste of her show from the cheap seats.
His hands tightened into fists as he turned through her kitchen and headed down the hall to her master bedroom.
He’d long ago asked her to move up to Napa to live at his winery with him, but she’d always had a reason to put it off. The latest was that her current apartment was a rare find barely a block away from her financial planning company with its frequent 4:40 a.m. wake-up calls. She told him he could stay over whenever he wanted.
Marcus had never felt at home in her apartment, everything a cold shade of white, mirrored and glass surfaces that smudged at the slightest touch. But he’d wanted a future with her and he’d assumed making good on that future meant bending, compromising.
How many weekends had he come to the city to see Jill when it suited her? How many times had he changed his entire schedule on less than a moment’s notice to be there for her when she needed him?
Too many times.
But never, not once, had he ever walked in on a live p**n show, starring his girlfriend.
She was riding the guy like he was a bucking bronco and she was the star rodeo rider.
He saw the naked skin and limbs—hell, he couldn’t miss them from the bedroom door—but it was as if he were watching them from a clinical distance. Like a triple-X cable channel that had accidentally flipped on in a hotel when he wasn’t in the mood.
“What the—?” The guy under his girlfriend looked at Marcus with alarm. Clearly, he hadn’t been expecting anyone to walk in.
That was when Jill shifted slightly to look over her shoulder at him. Her eyes widened in what was supposed to be surprise. But he knew her well enough to see through it. At least he’d thought he’d known her.
How much of their relationship had been a lie?
Jill moved to pull a sheet over her and her lover. Marcus watched them slide apart, watched the guy reach over the side of the bed to pull on his jeans. “I’ll get out of here,” the guy said, but Jill held his hand and made him stay on the bed.
“No, Rocco, you don’t need to leave.”
Rocco? His classically beautiful girlfriend, the woman he’d been planning to marry and start a family with, the women he’d planned to share the helm of Sullivan Vineyards with, was doing a guy named Rocco with a nasty-looking goatee and piercings? It had to be some sort of sick joke.
The guy looked between Jill and Marcus, going a little white as his gaze lingered on Marcus’s fists and the way his shoulders took up the bulk of the doorway.
Jill dropped the sheet and slid on a silk robe that had been draped over a chair in the corner of her room. She moved toward Marcus. “We should go talk in the living room.”
Somehow she slipped past without touching him, but Marcus could smell sex on her. He could smell some other guy on her.
He wanted to pound his fist into the guy’s face. But Jill had engineered this. Start to finish.
He’d deal with her, instead.
Marcus moved back through the hallway to the living room where Jill was waiting for him.
She didn’t look guilty. And, for the first time, he didn’t think she looked beautiful, either. Yes, she was still classically pretty, tall and slim...but there was an ugliness stamped across her face that he’d never let himself see before.