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Authors: Jennifer Lane

Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Contemporary

Bad Behavior

BOOK: Bad Behavior
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Bad Behavior

a novel by

Jennifer Lane

Omnific Publishing

For survivors of abuse:
May you find strength and redemption.

1. Concession

He was trembling like a loose-footed sail in a sudden sea squall.

Grant sat in the psychologist’s waiting room fighting the urge to jiggle his thigh, tap his fingers on his knee, and nervously clear his throat. Perched next to him, Sophie pretended not to notice his anxiety. She too had been apprehensive when she’d sat in this very waiting room before
her
first appointment.

Though it had been a lighthearted jab yesterday—questioning why her boyfriend hadn’t also been mandated to attend therapy—Sophie rued opening her big mouth to their parole officer. Jerry Stone had consequently ordered Grant into counseling as a condition of his parole, then decided they might as well make it couples counseling. Now Sophie wondered what she’d gotten them in to—and if they’d survive. She didn’t need her keen psychological insight to discern that therapy was a frightening prospect for the tall, handsome man next to her.

A soft sling secured her left arm uselessly at her side, but she reached out to place her right hand on Grant’s thigh. “I’m nervous too,” she admitted, looking into his gorgeous light-blue eyes and finding a flash of embarrassment there.

“Why are
you
nervous?” he asked. “You used to do this stuff for a living.”

She offered him a wistful smile. “It’s easier to be on the other side of the couch.” Gently squeezing his knee, she added, “I’m also worried because Hunter might not agree to see us as a couple. He’s never met you before.
I
know what a great guy you are, but Hunter may take…” she glanced down at her shoulder sling “…some convincing.”

Grant grimaced. It was his fault Sophie had been shot by his cousin Carlo, and he’d never forgive himself. The sling over her left shoulder was a constant reminder of his family’s destructive power.

“Sophie?”

A confident male voice interrupted Grant’s self-recrimination. He glanced up to see a solidly built blond man striding into the waiting room, his generous smile quickly fading once he caught sight of Sophie’s arm sling.

Grant gallantly guided Sophie to a standing position. As the three stood facing each other, Grant realized Hunter was about the same height as his girlfriend—five foot nine—providing Grant a four-inch advantage over them both.

“What on earth happened?” Hunter asked Sophie, his inquisitive eyes inevitably turning toward the strange man at her side. Grant hovered over her like a protective clansman.

Sophie gave a nervous laugh. “We have a lot to catch up on, I’m afraid. Um, Hunter, may I introduce you to Grant Madsen?” Her eyes darted to her boyfriend’s stiff expression. “Grant, this is Dr. Hunter Hayes.”

The two men shook hands, appearing to size each other up. Hunter found himself momentarily entranced by the crystal eyes studying him, and the fit of the man’s long fingers in his strong handshake further enthralled him.

Grant took in the psychologist’s stylish, self-assured bearing and felt a twinge of jealousy. Sophie had been meeting privately with this man for almost two months? He wasn’t sure how he felt about that, even though Sophie had assured him Hunter was gay.

An awkward silence descended over them as Hunter seemed a bit mesmerized and Grant a bit wary.

“Should we head back to your office?” Sophie asked.

“Please, yes.” Hunter nodded, snapping out of his daze. He gestured for the couple to walk ahead of him—Sophie knew the way—and he felt himself blushing. He’d never experienced such an instant attraction to a client before.

Grant led Sophie to the sofa, Hunter grabbed her chart off his desk, and the three sat down. Grant could not take his eyes off of the beautiful aquarium set into the wall.

Observing his stare, Sophie said, “The aquarium’s just as awesome as I said it was, huh?”

Grant nodded. “Very impressive.”

Hunter smiled. “So, Sophie, your phone message said you were bringing Grant with you to today’s session. Do you want to tell me why? And about how you hurt your arm?”

“Those stories are kind of related, actually,” she responded, wincing. Glancing at Grant, she took a deep breath. “Jerry ordered us to get couples counseling as a condition of our parole. We’d like to start today.”

Noticing that the male half of the couple remained silent, Hunter aimed a quizzical look at Sophie. “You want to change your individual therapy to couples therapy?”

“Yes.” Sophie bit her lip.

“Hmm. The potential problem, Sophie, is that I’ve already seen you individually for five sessions. I know you fairly well, but I don’t know Grant at all. It’ll put him at a disadvantage when I have to pick on one of you, as sometimes happens in couples work. It’ll be harder for me to take Grant’s side.”

Sophie nodded, having known Hunter might make this argument. However, she also knew how freaked out Grant was about the counseling thing, and it would be even harder to start with a new psychologist.

Grant interjected, “That’s okay—I’m used to it, sir.”

Hunter felt instantly uncomfortable being referred to as “sir” but Sophie had mentioned that Grant was once in the Navy. And a therapy session was about the client’s needs, not the psychologist’s, so Hunter simply accepted the respectful address. He tilted his head to one side, peering at Grant. “You’re accustomed to people not taking your side?”

Grant nodded. “Sophie’s dad pretty much hates me.”
My own father hates me too
.

Feeling the self-loathing roll off the parolee, Hunter studied him sadly. “But you deserve to have people on your side,” he said.

Grant dutifully responded, “Yes, sir.”

Sophie stepped in. “Hunter, would you be willing to hear what’s happened in the past week before deciding whether to take us on as a couple? Maybe then you’ll understand, um, how important Grant is to me.”

Sophie’s face reddened with that admission. Hunter watched Grant squeeze her hand.

“One thing you undoubtedly want to catch me up on is the murder of Logan Barberi,” Hunter said. “I saw that on the news.”

As expected, Sophie’s brown eyes widened at the mention of the mobster who’d put her in prison, but Hunter was surprised to see Grant’s face fall. He squinted at Grant, wondering why he seemed upset about a Mafia capo dying.

“Yes,” Sophie rasped, attempting to steady her voice. “That was the beginning of everything going wrong. Well, actually our descent into hell began when Logan showed up at Grant’s apartment.”

Hunter turned to Grant, eyebrows raised. “Logan came to your apartment? Why?”

Grant let go of Sophie’s hand and tightly laced his fingers together in his lap, slowly raising his eyes to level his gaze with Hunter’s. “He’s my brother.”

Hunter’s eyes bugged out. “Logan Barberi’s your
brother?”

“Yes, sir.”

Turning back to Sophie, Hunter stammered, “Did—did you know about that?”

She smiled wryly. “Not until Logan came a-knocking that night.”


We
didn’t know,” Grant blurted defensively. “We had no idea about our connection. The pact—”

“The dumbass pact you made not to discuss your pasts,” Hunter supplied knowingly.

“That’s the one.” Sophie chuckled, and Hunter took it as a good sign that she wasn’t having a nervous breakdown. “So, naturally I was kind of upset when I found out Grant was related to Logan.” She swallowed hard. “I ran out of there and—” she looked apologetically toward Grant “—I said some awful things.”

“I deserved them.” Grant hung his head low.

“How, um, how are you his brother?” Hunter asked. “You have different last names?”

“My mom died when I was a kid, and her brother—my uncle, Joe Madsen—he adopted me,” Grant said. A look of anguish crossed his strong features. “Because my father was serving a life sentence at Gurnee.”

So both parolees had lost their mothers? Hunter recalled Sophie sharing how her mother had died of a heart attack while she was in prison. He also remembered Sophie’s story about a therapy session she’d had with Logan in which he disclosed how his father had mercilessly beat him and his brother.

Hunter sat up with a start, blinking at Grant. “Your father abused you?”

Grant’s olive skin paled, and he reeled back on the sofa as if he’d been hit. Then he whirled to face Sophie, his voice accusing. “You told him?”

“I—I—”

“She told me about your father beating Logan,” Hunter gently explained. “I figured you got hit too.”

Grant’s face was on fire with shame. He swiftly stood, looking like he was going to bolt from the room, but instead he strode to the corner and began pacing while he alternated wringing his hands with jamming them in his jean pockets.

“I’m sorry,” Sophie choked out.

Hunter observed them with a studied gaze. Grant reminded him of a caged animal, and he didn’t seem like one to share his family’s secrets. It would likely be some time before he’d be comfortable enough to disclose what had happened between him and his father.

“Grant,” Hunter calmly began, “I apologize for rushing things—that was my bad. We’ll go at your pace here; you don’t have to talk about anything you don’t want to, okay? Would you be willing to take a seat? I promise to be more careful.”

Grant halted his pacing and reluctantly returned to the sofa, emitting a long sigh.

“What are you thinking?” Sophie softly asked him. She hoped he wasn’t angry with her.

“I’m thinking…I’m thinking both of you know more about Logan than I do.” He exhaled loudly. “I never got to know my brother—he wouldn’t allow it. And now he’s gone.”

“Oh, Grant,” she cried, taking his hand in hers and stroking it softly. His grief made her heart ache.

Hunter mulled over what Grant had said. Was it possible Sophie knew Logan on a deeper level than his own brother? Did Grant realize the full extent of Sophie’s knowledge? Like, for example, that she knew Logan in the biblical sense?

Wanting some answers, he asked, “So, when did Logan come to your apartment?” Logan had obviously been alive then—his visit must have occurred before Thursday.

“Last Wednesday. Sophie cooked me a delicious dinner that night.”

“And then what happened?”

“Logan and I—”

“I walked around—”

The pair both spoke at once, then chuckled, and the tension in the room dissipated slightly.

“Ladies first,” Grant offered.

“Thank you. After I found out they were brothers, I thought Grant was working some kind of con on me, just like Logan,” said Sophie. “I was…devastated. I walked around the city for hours and finally landed on my father’s doorstep.”

Hunter quirked one eyebrow. He’d been encouraging Sophie to contact her father from day one. “And how did he react?”

“It’s a good thing I followed your advice,” Sophie replied, allowing Hunter to relax. “My dad took me in, and we talked through a lot of stuff. He doesn’t blame me for Mom dying after all. He just couldn’t see me because I remind him too much of her.”

Grant stared at Sophie, evidently hearing this information for the first time.

“But it’s still not great between us. I’m not sure about having my dad back in my life because he’s been a total jerk to Grant.”

The look of resignation on Grant’s face continued to communicate his low self-worth.

“And what happened to
you
after Logan’s surprise visit?” Hunter prompted.

Grant appeared uncomfortable. “I, well, I kept asking Lo how he knew Sophie, and he finally admitted she was his psychologist. The judge forced him into counseling after the Great Lakes thing.”

“Great Lakes?” Sophie repeated curiously.

“The robbery—” Grant stopped, realizing Sophie had no idea Logan had coerced him to rob the Navy bar near the base. As they attempted to tell their stories to Dr. Hayes, it suddenly felt like they hardly knew each other.

“I’ll tell you about that later,” Grant promised. “Anyway, I was
so
mad at Logan for ruining Sophie’s life, but the kicker was he didn’t even know what he did. He didn’t have a clue she went to prison because of him.”

Sophie’s lips parted. “He didn’t?”

Grant felt even more anxious with both psychologists’ piercing gazes on him. Clearing his throat, he replied, “Logan went into hiding, and he had no idea about the fallout from stashing the guns and the money in your office. He didn’t even know you’d lost your license.”

Sophie’s mouth hung open as she absorbed this information. She’d been furious with Logan for abandoning her, leaving her to deal alone with his mess, but she’d never considered that his betrayal might not have been entirely premeditated.

Grant continued, “Uh, like I said, I was really mad at Logan, and we sort of got into a fight after Sophie left.”

Hunter nodded. That explained the yellowish tinge on Grant’s cheek—the remnants of a bruise.

Grant glanced at Sophie and then looked down. “I wanted to hurt him just like he hurt you.”

“What happened next, Grant?” Hunter prompted.

“I told Lo to l-l-leave…” Grant’s voice faded and his stomach clenched with guilt.
I told him I wished he was dead.

Hunter observed his shamefaced expression. “Did he leave?”

Grant tightened his fists and took a shuddering breath, attempting to stuff down his guilt. “Yes, sir. Um, the next morning I went to see Officer Stone—our PO. I’d been up all night, and I didn’t know what else to do. I guess I needed to talk to somebody who knew the whole story. The day before, Officer Stone saw pictures of me at the Barberi compound for my nephew Ben’s birthday party, and he told me I should tell Sophie who I really was.”

Grant paused and shook his head. It was some kind of miracle that Sophie now knew the truth and was still by his side.

“Grant tried to tell me that night,” Sophie quickly added. “He tried to tell me his family was Mafia. But I wanted to be honest with him first, so I explained how I got arrested.”

Hunter took in this information, wondering if Grant really would have come clean if not for Logan showing up unannounced.

Sophie resumed the story. “The next morning I went to Roger’s ship to resign, and I, um, I ran into Grant.” They exchanged a painful glance, recalling her fear at the sight of him.

BOOK: Bad Behavior
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